M25 Conference 2018

This will be my first blog post not related to 23 Things (Watch this space for a few more Things coming up though! Even though its getting too late to apply for more badges, I’m hoping to still work my way through and post some thoughts). I thought a little conference report would be a good place to start, along with a few reflections on my first ever experience of presenting at a conference.

So, on Tuesday I, along with my colleague Emma, presented at the M25 Conference. This year’s theme was engaging users, something which we’ve been thinking a lot about in the last few years. Our presentation was about our Library Advisory Group, which is now in its second year, and which we use to get input and feedback from our users, as well as a vehicle for user engagement. I think the slides will be up online soon, so if you want to see more of what we did, I’ll try and add this link in once it’s available, in case anyone is interested! All the other presentations should be up there too, so I won’t spend too much time going into the various topics in detail here.

As for the experience of presenting, it was completely terrifying but, ultimately, so worthwhile, and I would definitely recommend it, especially to any newer professionals. I was lucky to be presenting with a colleague, as I think going it alone for this first time would have been even scarier! Also, I think I maybe would have lacked the confidence as someone newer to the field to actually put myself forward for something like this. Most of the work I do, and I would imagine this is the same elsewhere, is as part of a team rather than a solo effort. So I think it would be a good place to start to think about submitting a paper as a team rather than facing it alone, especially at first.

When it came to the day, I have to say the morning was a bit nerve-wracking, as we were taking the tricky just before lunch slot. Seeing so many (about 100) colleagues in the room, including the head of my library, was daunting, but as you would expect, librarians are a pretty nice crowd on the whole! Once we got up there and got into the presentation, it all ran smoothly. Most importantly, we got quite a few questions at the end, which I hope meant people were interested in what we had to say. For the rest of the day, people came up to us to ask more questions or to congratulate us on a good presentation, which did feel pretty great!

I would like to think that our presentation was entertaining (we tried to keep it light-hearted- cake featured heavily as you can see below) and perhaps gave some of the other delegates something to think about or take back to their own libraries. Who knows, maybe we’ll see a flurry of Library Advisory Groups springing up?

As for my experience as a delegate, that was pretty great too! The presentations were all useful, and some gave us ideas that we’d like to take away and use at Essex (looking at you Middlesex and your owl event!). All the presenters did a fantastic job, and a particular hats-off to the Pecha Kucha presenters. Our session was daunting, but at least we weren’t trying to keep up with slide changes every 20 seconds!

Most of all, it’s great to know that other libraries and librarians are facing similar challenges to us, and that they’re coming up with so many creative ways to deal with them. This is something that always strikes me at conferences; from chatting to people throughout the day and at the evening reception, it’s clear that whatever is happening in your library, someone else is probably experiencing something similar.

I also took the opportunity to dust of my much-neglected Twitter account to get involved with some live-tweeting on the day, which was great fun and allowed me to interact in a different way with other delegates, even those I didn’t get to chat to in person. This is definitely something I’ll be doing in future, but I am still not sure about whether to re-invigorate my old account, or try setting up a new one for professional networking.

User engagement is clearly a hot topic across the library sector at the moment, and I feel we definitely came away from this day with a few new tools at our disposal for helping to encourage this.

Thing 13: reflective post

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Things 10 and 11, about online networking tools and professional brand, were interesting and thought-provoking for me. I’ve sporadically used online networking tools (Twitter and LinkedIn) for professional purposes, but never in a very systematic way. Usually, I’ve hopped onto Twitter when I’ve been at a conference or other kind of work event, but usually to follow the live tweets rather than to make much of a contribution of my own. Looking forwards, I am considering setting up a new account for professional purposes, as my current one was set up years ago, in my pre-librarian days and I’m sure if I scrolled back I would find some less than professional tweets in there! I loved Jane’s idea from Thing 11 about “pre-networking”, so would be interested in using Twitter for this in future, ahead of attending events .  As for LinkedIn, I set up a page a few years ago as I left university, but have not used it much since. I’ve kept it up to date with my work and qualifications, but have not really made use of it as a networking tool.

My personal/professional brand is something I have not previously given much thought to but will definitely do more now! I was interested to see that the blog post for Thing 11 mentioned ORCID. I’ve come across this at work, but strictly as something academic staff get involved in, for attributing their scholarly output. Having not been published, I’m not sure how useful this would be for me, but would be interested to learn more about how other librarians and information professionals are using it. I am currently a member of a professional organisation (CILIP), and have used it for CPD, and consequently networking. Regional events have proved particularly useful for this. I would like to get more involved in future, perhaps joining a committee, but my upcoming career break will put this on hold for now.

For Thing 10, I’ve had a look at a few of the library-based Twitter accounts I’m already following, and checked out their lists. Lists are something I’ve not really used much on Twitter, so I was interested to find out more. I started of with CILIP (@CILIPInfo) and found that they have a couple of HE lists. As this is the sector I work in, it’s interesting to see what others in the field are up to and how they are using Twitter. The downside of the first list I found (Higher edu librarians)  was that it’s got quite a lot of accounts in it, so there’s so much in there when you take a look at the tweets! I then took a look at Higher Edu. Libraries. This was interesting for me as it brings together the accounts of a few institutions. Being involved in social media for my library, it’s always good to keep up with what others are doing and to get some inspiration. I’ll definitely follow this one and keep an eye on it in the future. I would like to investigate other lists as well, to try and find some personal inspiration for my own Twitter account.

I chose Task 1 for Thing 11, attempting to write a professional bio that I can use for my online profiles. This is still in the works, as I’ve found it surprisingly hard! My first draft just read like a very bland CV, with a list of previous job titles. Having gone back and had a look at Jane’s advice from the blog post, I thought more about what really interests me and makes me unique- a hard task, for a librarian with an almost stereotypical lack of self-confidence with this kind of thing! So this will definitely need some work but, once I’ve got something together I think it will really help by bringing together my online profiles (LinkedIn and perhaps a new Twitter account) and putting my best foot forward professionally. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I’ll imminently be presenting at the M25 conference, and feel that if I am to do more like this in the future, a professional and consistent online brand will become more important.

In my Thing 12 blog post I reflected on my previous use of online tools for collaboration. I’ve done some small-scale online collaboration a few times over the last few years, for example during my distance-learning LIS degree, but actually chose to write about a more recent project that’s much more close to home! While working with a colleague on our joint conference paper, we’ve tried a few different online collaboration tools. The main thing that struck me, both with this and other projects, is that if you’re not all on board with using the same tools, and committed to using them, it just doesn’t work! Tools such as Trello and Slack are great, but I’ve been involved in projects where some members of the group use them more than others, and if you don’t have everyone’s buy-in, they can actually be more of an hindrance than a help! In future, I would like to make more use of these and other tools, but I think it’s a case of picking the right one at the right time, and making sure everyone is on board.

All in all, the Online Networker section of 23 Things has been quite an eye-opener for me. While I have been familiar with almost all the tools mentioned, I’ve really  re-assessed my own use of them and have hatched a few plans for the future to help me build up my professional brand and work better with colleagues both within my institution and beyond.

Thing 12: Collaborative tools

Collaborative tools was another Thing which once again got me thinking about my past and current practice, and what I can do to improve it. Having been involved in teamwork in a number of capacities in my library work over the last few years, I definitely understand how important it is and, I think, where some of the pitfalls can lie. The online collaborative tools discussed in this Thing can definitely help to make this an easier, more efficient process, but do come with their own challenges, as I’ll discuss briefly in this post.

The task for this Thing was to think about a recent group project. The first that came to mind was actually more of a current rather than recent project, so I’ll discuss this first. I also thought about my previous experiences of using some of these tools in the past, so have added some additional reflections on this as well.

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I am currently working on conference presentation with a colleague. We’re jointly writing and presenting and, handily, sit at opposite desks in the office! So, in theory, collaborating should be quite simple. So far, it has been, and for me it’s been a largely positive experience. I work with this colleague on a daily basis, and we have a good working relationship, which definitely makes the whole process easier. However, having reflected on our project so far, I’ve realised that there are definitely ways that we could make this project and our work as a team in general more efficient.

So far, we have had meetings in person, made notes, then emailed them to one another. We’ve then gone away and put together our respective sections of the presentation, while I’ve also made the slides. Despite our close proximity in the office, we often resort to emails in this way, to share notes, updates and so on.

We have started using SharePoint to put up documents, which can work in a similar way to Google Drive, in that we can both work with and comment on the documents, slides and so on. I am now wondering whether we should have started this way with our initial ideas and notes, as a way of saving time and inbox space!

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Both of us currently use Trello, but have not so for this project. This could be a good way to keep track of who’s doing what, and to flag up key issues, deadlines and so on. I’ll definitely consider suggesting this for future projects.

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Outside of this particular project I have used the tools mentioned in this Thing at different times in different ways. Difficulties I’ve found have been with familiarity and buy-in with the tools from the different collaborators. For example when using Slack on a project last year, we still ended up sending lots of emails, which is exactly what we were trying to avoid with this tool! I think it takes time to get out of the email habit!

Similarly with and interdepartmental collaboration project within the university we’re using Trello, but to be effective this needs buy-in from all users. Everyone needs to be using it, updating cards, remembering to check it regularly and so on for it to work. I’m just starting to use it more myself, but mainly for personal organisation (to-do lists etc.) than collaborative work.

When working with colleagues further afield (i.e. not in the same office or at the same institution) where topping up this online collaboration with chats, meetings and so on, these tools can be particularly valuable. During my LIS degree, which I did via distance learning, I had experience of this long-distance collaborative work, both within the university’s VLE (Moodle) and outside. For one particular group project, Google Drive and the associated products was a life-saver. However, as Helena mentioned in the Thing 12 post, backing up is key in these situations!

Well, that’s enough from me about all these tools! I’m definitely going to consider ways in which I can use them in future as I think that, provided your team is on board, they can be a great way to work collaboratively.

Now, time to get my thoughts together for my next reflective post for Thing 13!

Things 10 & 11: Networking tools and your professional brand

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In the spirit of cracking on with my 23 Things, here are two at once! These are the first two Things for the Online Networker badge. While reading through the posts for these Things, I really started to think about and reevaluate my own professional online presence, and have come up with some interesting questions to ponder in the coming weeks and months. These are a few of my initial thoughts. I’ll write more about my tasks for these Things in my reflective post for Thing 13.

This year, a few things have made me look at the topic of online professional networking and personal brands in a new light. First, I’m attending a couple of conferences in the next few months (M25 and UXLibs) and for the first time will be presenting at one (M25) with a colleague. As a presenter and therefore more visible attendee, I feel like this would be a good time to make use of these online tools.

However, I also have some concerns about starting to build up an online professional profile just now. My other exciting development this year is that I will soon be (albeit temporarily) swapping the world of libraries for the world of nappies and sleepless nights, as I go on maternity leave in July, and am not set to return until next summer. With my impending hiatus looming, I’m wondering: is now is the time to put in work on my professional profile? Will I have time, and indeed should I even try to keep this up while I’m away? If anyone out there has any advice, please do let me know!

 

 

Where has the time gone?

It suddenly occurred to me the other day that it has been quite some time since I last looked at my 23 Things. Having achieved the first badge, I definitely got complacent with this! While I’ve looked through the Things I have consistently failed to do anything about them! With the deadline for applying for badges fast approaching, I’m going to do my best to get through them. This may be quite a bold statement but, after a hectic term, I finally have some breathing space and may actually stand a chance of getting this done! So, wish me luck and watch this space!

Thing 6: Reflective practice

Once again it’s been a little while since my last post; the last few weeks have continued to be busy, but now that the information literacy teaching is dying down at work, and I’ve (after what seems like years) received my grade for my masters so am officially finished, I can now relax and get down to completing Thing 6! This will be my first reflective post, about how it’s gone so far with 23 Things. I’m pretty new to this reflective writing thing, so please bear with me! As suggested by the Rudai 23 team, I’ll be using the Gibbs Reflective Cycle as a basis for my writing, taking you through thing 3-5, which I’ve already written about a bit in previous posts.

Firstly, Thing 3: Image banks. For this Thing, I took on the task of exploring one of the image banks mentioned (I chose the British Library and New York Public Library’s image banks on Flickr), downloading an image and uploading it to my blog. Initially, I thought I would be quite familiar with this topic. I do a lot of work on our social media at work and am often using images in the learning resources I create, so am aware of various image banks and the copyright issues surrounding their use. I often search for and use images, music and learning resources shared under Creative Commons licenses, so again felt familiar with the content of the blog post concerning this. Where this Thing did surprise me, however, was in the introduction of how extensively some of the world’s biggest and best libraries are using image banks like Flickr. This was a revelation to me, primarily in my capacity as general library nerd. I loved searching through the amazing images that institutions such as the British Library and New York Public Library have made available. On a more serious note, I had the chance to reflect on how I might use this discovery in my practice. I think that these and other collections could be valuable and potentially untapped resources to students in a range of disciplines. I will now be able to add these resources to my arsenal when helping students in their research, as I sometimes do in my current role. On the whole, completing Thing 3 was an encouraging experience for me, as it showed me that I am already relatively knowledgeable in this area, but also that there is still much more to be explored!

From The British Library on Flickr

Next up was Thing 4: Communicating visually. This Thing was great fun, and I’ve already managed to make use of what I learned in practice, so that’s definitely a plus! As a member of my library’s ‘comms’ team and being heavily involved in our social media, I know how important images can be in catching people’s interest and getting a message across, so the chance to discover new tools that could help me do this was very welcome. As my activity for this Thing I downloaded the app PhotoFunia and used it to create some library-related images, which I then shared on my blog. This app was very user-friendly and produced great results. My imagination was sparked straight away by the available images, as I could see potential ways I could use it in future. I made a few images, including the one below, and plan to use this and make more in future for both social media and to include in presentations.

Made with PhotoFunia

Thing 5: Video presentations proved to be a much trickier nut to crack than the previous Things. For this Thing, I chose the task of creating a PowToon account and using this online tool to create a video. As a user of a range of other screencasting and video creating tools (such as Camtasia, VideoScribe and Adobe Spark) I thought this would be a breeze. On a quiet Saturday at the Helpdesk, I fired up Powtoon and got started, and realised that this task wouldn’t be as simple as I’d hoped. I chose this option for my activity as I’ve already used different screencasting software, so thought I would take the opportunity to try something different. The sample videos certainly looked impressive, so I was eager to get started and make some of my own. I came up with a quick idea of making a video version of an infographic I’d recently made of our information literacy teaching stats. I thought this could make a short and sweet video, and would be a good way to test out this new tool. However, I found that the interface was not the most user-friendly, and it took me some time to find my way around. This was partly my fault for being impatient and trying to get going too quickly. Perhaps in future when starting to use a new tool I should spend more time looking at tutorials first, to get more of a feel for it before diving in! One thing that did disappoint me was the lack of graphics in the free version of this tool. In other similar ‘freemium’ products I’ve used I’ve definitely felt less limited, often not needing to consider subscription or paying for the ‘pro’ offering. Here, however, was a different story. I felt that to get the slick look I wanted (and was suggested by the sample videos) I would need to go for the upgrade, which I don’t really feel would be worth it when there are other good, free products out there. While I can see that with some time, patience, and potentially a pro subscription, this tool could be very effective, I don’t think I’ll use it much in future. I did learn some valuable lessons about not forging ahead too quickly though, so I suppose that’s a helpful lesson!

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All in all, the first 5 Things have been great and I’ve learned a lot, both about the tools available and how I work. There are definitely a few things I’ll take away and use in practice in future.

 

Catching up with 23 Things, including Thing 5: video presentations

Just a few weeks in and I seem to have fallen behind with my 23 Things! The first few weeks of term have, as ever, been very busy for the library, and in my new role of Information Literacy Co-ordinator I’m experiencing the start of the year in a completely different way. From simple inductions to in-depth searching sessions it’s been non-stop, hence my backlog of Things to look at!

Today has been a weekend shift at the helpdesk, which has given me some time to pause and look through all those emails that have been patiently waiting for me. Apart from a few keen students, Saturdays in the library at this time of year don’t exactly have us run off our feet, so can be a great chance to catch up. So, amongst the enquiries about lost books, fines and printer problems I’ve managed to get a start on Thing 5: video presentations.

At work I’ve had the chance to use a few different video-making tools, such as Adobe Spark and Videoscribe, as well as screencasting with Camtasia. I’d heard of PowToon before, and had even got as far as signing up for an account a few months ago, but had yet to try it out. So, on I went, with an idea of turning an infographic I recently made about the information literacy activities of our Subject Librarian team as a way of testing out this certainly snazzy-looking presentation tool. Sadly, you will note that this whizzy video is not embedded on this blog post. Why? Well, if I’m honest, my time and patience were somewhat tested by PowToon, and as much as a quiet helpdesk shift can offer the time to catch up on emails, it turns out it’s not quite quiet enough to wrestle with a new video-making tool!

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I love the look of the PowToon videos, but once I was in, and had chosen a template I found the interface quite difficult to use. I gave it a go, but then came up against another barrier: the limited availability of free options for graphics. There’s a great array of graphics to use, but the number you can access without a “pro” account is very small. I’ve used other ‘freemium’ products such as Piktochart, but have usually found the range of free options quite good. With the limitations as to what I could use, along with the fiddly controls I admit I got frustrated pretty quickly. That said, I can definitely see that a bit of perseverance and some more experience could lead to some really great results. Right now, I don’t really have the time, but watch this space…

Thing 4: Fun with photos

After a busy few weeks I’m catching up on my 23 things, and am on to Thing 4: Communicating Visually. Just a quick post for this one about how I got on using a new tool. 

For this thing I downloaded PhotoFunia, a photo editing and image creation app. After a quick look around I started fiddling with some photos. Inspired by the images on offer, I created the picture below. Just this week was the 50th anniversary of the opening of the library building I currently work in, the Albert Sloman Library. So, when I saw the birthday cake, I thought this could be a great way to use it.


This was so easy to create, and looks pretty effective. Another option available that jumped out at me was the tablet below. This could be a great way to showcase the library website in a visual way.


I had never heard of this app before, but I can already see myself using this more in the future, particularly to create interesting and effective images for social media. 

Thing 3: Image banks and Creative Commons: getting lost in Flickr

When I first started reading Rudai 23‘s Thing 3 blog post, I have to admit that I thought I would already be familiar with what it was going to say. However, this assumption was definitely premature! I’ve been using Pixabay and Flickr for work and have been aware of Creative Commons (often taking advantage of all the great stuff that is shared under these licences!). What I didn’t know about was how some libraries are using Flickr. Now that I’ve found them, I’m hooked on their pages!

Firstly, I took a look at the British Library’s page, which is an absolute treasure trove! I particularly enjoyed taking a look at their collection of images from children’s’ books, and was rather taken with this simple but charming chap:

From The British Library on Flickr

 

I then moved on to the New York Public Library’s page.  The NYPL: Research Library collection is my current favourite, with some great historical images of the library like this one, featuring an epic card catalogue:

From New York Public Library on Flickr

There are also some gems such as this simple statement:

From New York Public Library on Flickr

I feel like this is just a hint of what’s out there to be discovered, so I’m off to dive into another feed and get lost in some amazing images!