Pros and Cons of sitting on Committees

As a tangent on a CILIP Chartership reflection I started writing this list. Did you know that CILIP has 1700 volunteers doing 55,000 hours of work a year? Here’s my reasons for and against why you should join them!


1) You get to meet a lot of people…

In my various roles I’ve attended small local events and big national ones and I’ve met loads of people and had lots of different conversations with them. I’m a people person, I love doing this! Usually the conversation is library/work related (especially for conferences and workshops etc) but sometimes it isn’t and I enjoy this networking opportunity. I don’t always feel like I make the most of them all the time but sometimes I do, like when I organised a look around the new library in Telford: I met the person I needed to arrange it with at the CILIP AGM a few months beforehand!

2) …from lots of different sectors of librarianship.

Naturally some events are going to attract a specific type of librarian (for example the Librarians as Teachers events I’ve organised mostly attract academic and FE/HE librarians) but some are open to everyone and with a bit confidence you can find out about their sector. Most of what I know about Law Librarians came from a conversation with one at a CILIP AGM.

3) Visit other libraries

Maybe you’re like me and you just like seeing what other libraries look like, and maybe you want new ideas for layouts/displays/seating arrangements, but because most of our events are hosted in other libraries you get a chance to explore a wide range of them when attending and hosting events. Some events are even put on with this express purpose (see 1 above!)

4) Learn a range of skills

Want experience handling money? Be a treasurer (or start small and run the account for an event!) Want experience with Social Media? With event organising? Chairing a meeting? Join a committee! You can start small, chair one meeting when the Committee Chair can’t make it. Organise a small one-off networking event. Run the Social Media account(s) for a day because you’re at the conference anyway. Committee work is a great way to pick up new skills, brush up rusty ones or just do something for the love of it!

5) Improve your juggling skills!

I learnt this one the hard way, but juggling non-work commitments on top of work ones takes a little getting used to! Thankfully most of the tasks on a committee are flexible, and don’t take up too much time in one go.


1) Attending meetings

I always feel like this is the biggest hurdle for some people joining committees, and as one of the biggest commitments to the committee I can see why. Some bosses are less flexible about their staff attending on ‘work’ time, combine this with travel or childcare issues and sometimes I wonder why we bother trying to have physical meetings at all! But modern technology makes it easier to be on the committee even when you can’t attend meetings in person. The West Midlands committee have enough Academic Librarians on it to have been able to set up a JiscMail mailing list just for committee members (other emailing systems are available!), and we have a lot of discussion on it some weeks! We’ve also experimented with Skype meetings. When we have physical meetings we alternate the time of our meetings between daytime and evening so that everyone can attend at least two out of four meetings a year, and our travel expenses are paid by the committee, so you don’t need to shell out for these either!

2) Not having enough time

Some people genuinely don’t have a lot of time spare, I understand that (and some weeks I am that!) but it doesn’t mean you can’t contribute! A lot of roles lend themselves to job sharing (the previous CSO in the West Midlands was job shared) or even be a committee member ‘without portfolio’: which is just the posh term for being a committee member without a designated job/officer role. It means you can pick up tasks and odd jobs when you can, and still have a say in what goes on with the committee regarding bigger issues and events.


TLDR: Join a CILIP committee! You’ll get more out of it than you expect!
I have genuinely loved working on CILIP Committees, yes it’s hard work, but in my experience all the most rewarding tasks are! They are also fun! I enjoy meeting people from all walks of life (and library sectors!) and while organising events can be hard work, it’s always great to see them go off as planned and to hear how much people appreciate it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Chartership, CILIP

‘Don’t make me think!’ (On getting rid of jargon in the Library)

Librarians are pretty good at realising we are using jargon (at least in my experience) but we don’t seem to be able to stop using it. It’s not about educating our users to use our terms, we need to make a concerted effort to not use any terms our users don’t understand.

Jargon seems to be a recurring theme for me lately. Not least because my Library service is in the early stages of implementing a Discovery Tool*. The Jargon is everywhere: in the things the suppliers are asking me to do; the things I’m asking them to do; and more importantly in the interface we are planning to show our users.

As part of a county wide Health Librarians meeting, every quarter we look at a journal article, and last week’s meeting discussed, you guessed it: jargon! (This is not a coincidence, it was my colleagues’ turn to chose the paper!) We discussed Library Terms That Users Understand by J. Kupersmith, which summarised US university libraries’ usability testing of their websites, focussing on terms which users did/didn’t understand. It was interesting to see which were the more popular terms and which Libraries contradicted each other i.e. one library reported users understanding ‘catalogue’ and another reported they didn’t understand it. There was no way to make allowances for type of training/promotion done by the libraries, and I think the difference mostly comes down to user education.

It’s easy to conclude we should explain ourselves more, but I think we need to take it further than that. I can’t help thinking about a book I read when I did my Masters degree: ‘Don’t make me think’ by Steve Krug. It’s about web design and website usability. It suggests, and you’ve possibly guessed from the title, that users (whether for a website or I think for a library) shouldn’t have to think about their next move, it should be obvious.

The Kupersmith article asked the question ‘What do you want to do today?’ and I thought this would make a good starting point for how we phrase things. If we asked our library users this question, what would the reply be?

[*For those not familiar with this particular piece of jargon – yes I see the irony! -this is a way for our users to search multiple journal/ebook/book databases at once. There’ll probably be more detailed posts soon as this project gets under way!]

Leave a comment

Filed under Misc

The Importance of Blogging

I recently attended the CILIP West Midlands Member Network Annual Member’s Day. The day’s speakers had a focus of marketing and promotion for Libraries, and it was actually really interesting, because the speakers kept repeating each other, especially about how blogging is the future of Social Media – if only because as a platform it will outlive everything else!

Because my notes for the day get a bit repetitive, I’m trying something new with my write up, so please bare with me! As a member of the organising committee for the event I didn’t take my notes during the day, but rather wrote a list of ‘takeaways’ that had stuck with me afterwards, which I have written up below. Both Neil Infield and Adam Koszary spoke on the subject of Social Media, Neil from a Small Business point of view and Adam from a Library Promotion point of view. Their sessions were generally very different from each other but I think this made it all the more interesting when they were stressing the same good practices. We also heard from Andy Ryan, who directs CityRead London who spoke about promotion from an events planning point of view, but again she repeated something Adam said about not being afraid to take risks, which again emphasised the importance of their point.

There was also a session from Nick Poole, Chief Executive at CILIP, but I want to write about this separately and will post a link here when I have published it.


Blogging is key – both Social Media speakers agreed on this point – it creates new and updated content for your website, as well as populating your various Social Media streams with regular content, which in turn helps drive traffic back to your website (and therefore to your business/service). Blogging platforms are also more secure long term than Social Media, Social Media platforms will come and go, but your website will remain (even if you end up changing service provider/blog platform etc)

Blog post titles should fully explain the article content (no mysterious riddles!) and all important points should be summarised in the first paragraph, for two reasons: 1) Google will include some of this in the search results so it will help inform readers why they should open your site, as well as meaning Google finds the relevant key words from the search term 2) skim readers won’t necessarily make it to the bottom of the page, make you point early and then back it up, rather than only making your point at the end of the page.

Good blog posts include images and are a suitable length for the audience (as a general rule, no longer than 500 words, but there are examples of longer posts working well, particularly in academia).

You need to clearly define your target audience and define what you want to achieve out of your social media channels.

Make use of Twitter’s trending topics to know what people are talking about – even if you use the subject on a different platform! Signing up for a Google+ page will also make your service more findable online, as Google includes these in search results! (Often worth having simply for this purpose, even if you don’t then populate it regularly)

Most Social Media platforms are image centric, as they are attention grabbing as users go through their feeds.

When using Twitter, make a point of engaging with your followers (the point of the platform is to have conversations!)

Two speakers both said “Don’t be afraid of taking risks!” (Adam and Andy) Marketing is iterative, you need to constantly evaluate what works and what doesn’t (and keep going/stop as appropriate) but you need to try new things as well as sticking with what has worked in the past. Don’t let fear of mistakes stop you – and it’s only a mistake if you don’t learn something from it!

For Andy, who spoke a lot about event promotion, a programme of events and marketing are intertwined: you can’t have one without the other.

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, Training

Librarians as Teachers 2015: Organising #LATAston

On the 10th June I attended the third West Midlands Librarians as Teachers conference. Once again the CILIP West Midlands Member Network committee I sit on worked together with the CILIP Academic and Research Libraries Group (West Midlands) committee (ARLG) to organise the event. This is the second time I have personally been involved in organising the conference (see my post from LAT 2013) and it felt like a very different experience from last time. This is possibly to do with the fact I had previously been involved in organising an event like this, so I knew what to expect and what I could offer as my contribution to the organising team.

We decided early on against having a separate event website this time and posted all of our promotional information to the CILIP Event page, as the page template meant we could include all of the information we wanted to, including Speaker information and an incorporated booking form. The main downside for this was all of the information was on one long page, but it meant we had the CILIP Branding etc on the page. The URL for it was long, so I used a URL Shortener which I edited to be easier to remember ( I think this was important when advertising the event as easy to remember URLs make things easier on potential attendees. This will also make things a little harder to make post event information such as slides and photos easily available, but we would be hosting these on sites such as Slideshare and Flickr anyway as they are available to a wider audience that way. I think a few blog/social media posts to the ARLG and CILIP West Midlands Member Network members as well as an email to our delegates should be sufficient to kick start the promotion of these resources. [During the run up to the event CILIP’s web team were doing a survey about the website – I have suggested the ability to create event micro-sites for big events, and apparently I wasn’t the only one!]

The live tweeting went well. LAT2013 was my first attempt at doing this and I think I struggled a bit with it, but I am more experienced now and a few people commented that I seemed to do it really well! These two people both said it was their first attempt at live tweeting, so maybe it looked more impressive to them than it was! The Hashtag for the event was #LATAston – due to hosting the conference at Conference Aston – we’d intended to use LAT2015 but this was used in America a few months before our conference! (I think this would probably be the same people that used LAT2013 a week or so after our last conference – it caused me some confusion doing the Storify, but thankfully didn’t confuse any other people! For the LATAston Storify visit Jess Haigh’s – she beat me to it!

This year the main difference we had was the decision very early on to pay for a conference room, rather than hunt around for free venues in Libraries. We used the biggest room we could find in 2013 and felt a bit squeezed in. This time we booked Conference Aston, in Birmingham. We felt it was easy to get to, being in Central Birmingham, and while the room costs weren’t cheap we knew we wanted to try and at least match the 65 delegates we had in 2013, if not get it a bit higher! I feel like paying for a room was worth it: The Conference centre itself was very impressive, with all the mod-cons (like coffee machines!) and top notch help from all of the staff, including Bill who helped us with all the AV set up at the start and end of the day. The food was fantastic as well – no dry/soggy sandwiches in sight! We had two ‘light’ options: soup and Jacket potatoes (with a choice of two fillings!) and three main course options, as well as two options for dessert – I went with the Lemon and Polenta cake! Yum!

We optimistically booked a room for 75-120 people, thinking if we had 75 then at least we would have some elbow space! We briefly discussed aiming for 100 attendees – I don’t know about the other organisers but to me this felt like a hard target to reach. When we hit the 65 delegates mark the bookings slowed down a little so I thought I had hit the mark. However we decided we had time before we had to confirm the number of attendees with conference centre so we kept accepting bookings – by the time we closed the bookings we had over 100 people booked in. We did accept a few after the closing date, as it was only a couple, but all in all I feel that this worked very well for us, and I’m certainly happy to have been proven wrong regarding the number of attendees we would get!

The official feedback is still being processed, but speaking to people at the conference yesterday and looking at the tweets I saw yesterday evening it looks like everyone enjoyed it and had a good time! I’ll write a separate post about my reflections of the content, but I can say for certain that I will be doing this again in the future, and I can’t think of anything at the moment that I would do differently.


Sorry for not posting this sooner – I’ve had a busy few weeks and didn’t get around to proof-reading the post!

Leave a comment

Filed under Events

Starting Chartership

A few weeks ago I finally made myself stop talking about it and registered for Chartership. Of course, what followed was a return to my previous non-activity as life and work distracted me with ‘more important’ things!

When I saw my Member Network colleagues had set a date for the Professional Registration event they were organising I was quick to sign up. I’d already unofficially agreed a Mentor (I have since finalised this on the VLE!) and I knew that going to the workshop was a great chance to make sure I had things straight in my head and to give me a kick up the behind about getting started!

Having been involved in the CILIP West Midlands Member Network (and one of it’s predecessors, the Career Development Group) during the consultations and launches of the changes a few years ago to Professional Registration I felt familiar enough with the theory. Even my previous experience with Certification, although no longer the same process, gave me enough prior knowledge to feel comfortable with what lies ahead. Certainly I feel more confident going into the whole process than a lot of other candidates say they feel about it!

I didn’t really expect to learn a lot of new things – but I did! While the ‘what’ and ‘why’ were already settled in my brain the ‘how’ was a bit of a blind spot – I’d never done more than give the VLE a cursory glance, but the VLE and Portfolio demonstrations were very helpful and while I still need to have a go and test them out a little bit I’m confident enough to do that now, where before I wouldn’t have known where to look for them!

We also had a very interesting talk from Pam Martindale about the portfolios from the assessors viewpoint. This was surprisingly helpful – while it included the usual advice about not including too much evidence and making sure you cover ‘the Criteria’ (you, your library service or organisation, and the wider Library community) she also included things like ‘Keep it Legal’: such as regarding copyright and plagiarism, as well as making sure you have permission to name people mentioned in your portfolio for example if you include emails or conversation notes as your evidence. Pam also made a point of noting that you need to make it easy on the assessors, not only how it is presented and laid out in the portfolio, but also to remember that the assessors are often working from home in their own time and may not have the fast broadband connection that you do! Make sure your files aren’t too big to download or too long/difficult to read.

Overall it was a very useful day, even to someone like me who thought they knew it all anyway!


PS I wrote this in June and didn’t get around to publishing the post, but I have since had a look at the VLE and found the videos on the site very helpful – I’ve even had a play and made up a test portfolio (called Test so I don’t confuse myself later on!) and am definitely feeling better about to to approach Chartership – I just need to make time to actually do it!

Leave a comment

Filed under Misc

Project Management and Time Management Tips!

We had our annual Team Away Day today, a day away from our normal libraries/offices to get together and have a training session, and some group discussions (probably not coincidentally just before we decide the Delivery Plan for the next financial year!)

The main topic of discussion today was Project Management – the Library Manager is hoping to equip everyone with the skills to lead on a Delivery Plan project next year, not just the Librarians! We had a very interesting training session from a member of the IM&T Project Team, and we used some of our current projects as worked examples, which was particularly helpful as one of the projects was mine! Working in small groups we put together a list of tasks that were needed for the project, and it gave my colleagues a chance to ask questions about the process that I hadn’t thought ahead to yet (I have to have done a big bit of it by 31st March so I’ve been focussing on that rather than the whole picture, which meant I hadn’t planned certain parts of it yet!) I now have a plan of action for the whole project, and while my group didn’t get around to setting timescales for the tasks yet, it’s certainly been a big boost to the project for me, and it won’t take long to throw together a timeline/Gantt Chart for the project.

After lunch, we had a session by the Associate Director of IM&T about the Trusts proposed Digital Strategy which is something he’s been working on (and the library has done some literature searches for him toward it!) He also talked us through a SWOT analysis for the library service, but tied it back by saying ‘how can the digital strategy help this?’ because he would like to see us respond to the proposed strategy as a team, not just as individuals as he believes that the library could be central to some of what he wants to achieve with the policy (which he summed up with the phrase “digital by default”)

The technique for the SWOT analysis was interesting. We split into two groups (we had four people in each group, but it could be done in bigger groups too) and each group sat in a circle with our backs to each other. We had a pile of post-it’s each and spent ten minutes on each section of the SWOT analysis. What you do is you write an idea ie a strength on your post-it in five words or less and then pass it to the person on your right (we attached them, unsuccessfully,  to the chairs, but if you’re comfortable with each other you could place them on the next person’s leg!) The next person then adds to it in some way (again in five words or less) and then passes it along. If it triggers a new idea you start another post-it for it, so each post-it has a unique idea on it. You should end up with a few post-its going around! At the end of the ten minutes you get up and go to a bit of wall or desk and work to group the ideas together in themes. The theme phrases then go on the SWOT analysis, we used a flip chart. It was certainly interesting to see what themes emerged, and how often they came back to the same principle.

For the last few minutes we did an ideas exchange for time management tips. There were some very useful ones, which I’ll list below, but I would be interested to know what other tips people have (comments welcome!)
1) Breaking big To Do tasks into smaller tasks which are easier to cross off
2) We have  large shared folder for all of our documents, and one of the staff members has a folder on their desktop with shortcuts to their often used one (it saves trying to remember where it’s filed!)
3) Turning off email alerts to avoid distractions and tangents
4) Creating a To Finish list at the end of the day, so you haven’t got to try and remember the half finished stuff tomorrow morning
5) One staff member plans to undertake a Time Audit to find out where her time is going (which I might investigate!)
6) 1:3:5 To Do lists. Each day you do One big task, Three medium ones and Five small tasks.  For me as a Health Librarian that might be a Literature Search as a big/time consuming task. Three smaller, but not simple tasks such as a training session, some admin work or the spreadsheet I’m working on, and then five small tasks like sending a quick email enquiry,  or making a phone call.


Edited 24/02/2015 to correct some typos I would have spotted if I’d proof read the post before publishing!

Leave a comment

Filed under Training

Changes, lots of changes!

Somehow I doubt three months is the longest my blog has gone without a post, but so much has changed since my last one!

I’ve started a new job: I’m now officially a Librarian (where previously I was a Senior Library Assistant). This means I can no longer put off my CILIP Chartership, but of course I have lots of things to learn for my new role, which I can include in my portfolio, so it’s a bonus really!

I’ve been busy with the CILIP West Midlands Member Network, most recently in organising our Annual Member’s Day (and CILIP Debate) which is on Monday and is currently filling my head with silly questions and niggles, but it’ll all be fine on the day! We’re already in the midst of planning our next big (should that say bigger?) event in June when we’re planning to host a Librarians as Teacher’s Conference to up to 90 odd participants.

I’ve also logged into my blog after a break to find that the stats of people viewing the site has boomed! Previously if I didn’t post anything in a while the stats eventually dropped to zero views/visitors, but at present I seem to have had a steady stream of visits since September, apparently mostly to view the post I wrote about creating Google Maps, but a few people seem to linger while they’re here! Unfortunately they seem to be mostly arriving here via search engines and WordPress is unable to see what search terms have led them to this site. This is disappointing in two ways: first as a blogger I want to see what topics people are interested in so I can write on those topics, and second is simply as an information professional: what are they searching for, and more importantly, are they finding it?

Leave a comment

Filed under Misc

My thoughts on Augmented Reality

I read with interest Liz McGettigan’s CILIP Guest Blog about Augmented Reality.

It’s something I’ve dabbled in a little – I’ve been running a series of drop-in training sessions on things like Twitter, LinkedIn, Prezi and other online tools and services for the staff at the hospital. One of the sessions I ran was on Augmented Reality (AR). It wasn’t the most popular session – I’ve found that the ones with the best turn out were the ones that the staff could see an immediate use for (like the three listed above) but as a part of the AR session I ‘augmented’ our Library cards.

If you scan the card with the correct app (in this case Aurasma, but others are available!) you can see a screenshot of the Library Catalogue with annotations showing you how to log in and renew/reserve books online. It looks like this:

Screenshot of a Library Card when scanned with and Augmented Reality app

A screenshot of what you see when scanning a Shropshire Health Libraries Card with the Aurasma app

One I would like to do would be to ‘augment’ the Self Issue Machine with a video demonstration of how to use it. Being a hospital library we allow our users to access the library while it is unstaffed – and while our self issue machine does offer instructions, I think a video would be very useful. I haven’t had the time to invest in doing this unfortunately, and it’s not exactly a priority on my ‘To Do’ list!

I think the potential is limitless – especially in libraries. Liz’s example of the ‘Mythical Maze’ app as part of the summer reading program is well chosen: it made the library interactive and fun beyond just the traditional books and reading aspect. AR could even be fun for older library users, I’m sure my limited ideas are just the tip of the iceberg, and librarians are, amongst other things, a creative bunch!

The only downside I find with Augmented Reality is that you – and your users – are tied to a specific app. Unlike QR codes which have an ISO standard – which means that codes created by any program can be read by any scanner – scanning my augmented library cards with a different app won’t find anything. It means that if I did make an instruction video for our self issue machine I can’t just put a sticker on it saying ‘Scan me for a video tutorial’; it would have to read ‘Download and install the Aurasma app to scan me for a video tutorial’. Let’s face it: how many users are going to bother?

Of course with something like ‘Mythical Maze’ downloading the specific app is part of the fun, and to a certain extent part of the branding. Maybe all we need to do is use the same app – or maybe develop one ourselves and name it appropriately?

Leave a comment

Filed under Misc, Training

Using Technology in Libraries Study Day

I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get around to writing this up!

On the 28th April I attended the ‘Libraries for Nursing’ study day on Using Technology in Libraries. It was held at the Create Centre in Bristol which is a brilliant conference facility in a converted factory. I also bumped into two people I know from the NHS Midlands Regional Trainer’s Forum which was nice because we had a chance to chat and catch up, which also breaks the ice for others to jump in and join the conversation!

The first session was from Ben Skinner, Head of Library and Knowledge Services for Brighton and Sussex LKS. Ben was talking about the web-based tool he has helped develop called KnowledgeShare which is replacing the Library’s current awareness Access spreadsheet, but will eventually incorporate their Literature Searching facilities and ILL requests and log training and will include the ability for Library users to login online (using OpenAthens to save having even more passwords) to request these services and edit current awareness alerts directly. Because all of these services are centralised it means Librarians will have greater access to statistics, not just for time spent literature searching and training, but also for the number of current awareness emails sent – and hopefully in the future to be able to see how many of these were opened and which links were followed.

It was very interesting, particularly how they are branching out to include other library services, partly to recover costs of development, but also to help spread out the workload of uploading new articles for the current awareness features (in a ‘do once and share’ way). However I have to confess a little part of me wants to know how his current awareness Access Database worked!

Ben’s presentations can be found at

Patricia Santos, Research Assistant at UWE, then talked about their involvement with  the ‘Learning Layers’ research project, trying to find out more about Healthcare staff research and learning network needs (Such as how people move from their personal learning network to asking within their shared learning networks). It was very interesting, but of no direct interest to me: The focus groups have already been selected so we can’t participate and add to their knowledge and the results seem to be directed to developing a social network for personal development; which is still some years away (they are 18 months into a 4 year project) although a trial version is available at

Patricia’s Presentation can be found at

After a delicious lunch Georgina Parsons, Systems Librarian at Brunel University, then talked about how her library service has embraced web technology to benefit staff and students. This is not just limited to Social media marketing, but also to the staff’s use of iPads and related apps to assist in enquiries when roving and at the enquiry desk. Georgina took us through all of the apps and websites that they have used some of which I already use in work, such as Twitter and Facebook, where it was nice to see other suggestions for use, and others which I might consider such as Pinterest for sharing new books stock and general online promotion of the library and Chilli Fresh which Georgina uses to add reviews and ratings to the library catalogue. Some were tools she had used to develop their mobile friendly website – which wouldn’t be applicable to my Library Service as we recently transferred our website to a WordPress CMS which includes a mobile friendly version – or for Room Bookings etc which again isn’t relevant to my library service, but it was still good to see what is available for libraries.

Georgina’s presentation is available from

Nick Gregory from Apache Solutions came to demo their Augmented Reality projects – which was of definite interest to me as a technophile! They showed us some 3d explorable models used for selling yachts at a trade fair and one that was used by Sony to sell televisions – and twos medical one used for discussing infection and for exploring a 3d anatomy model.

It would have been nice to see some library/ library applicable examples of these – I used the break to show some people the one I’d done with our Library cards to show users how to login online and renew books and talked about my plans to create a video to show users how to use our new self service machine – which was of far more interest to the library staff as it was something they could see a use for and it was something they could potentially do themselves.

Nick’s presentation is available from

Following this we had a discussion Workshop so that we could discuss and troubleshoot each other’s experiences and problems with using technology in our library services. I didn’t take any notes from the discussion so I can’t remember which topics we touched, but it was a good way to end the day, especially how we were all still brimming with ideas!

Leave a comment

Filed under Training

Creating Google Maps from Postcode Data

Following the recent merger of the Career Development Divisions with local CILIP Branches I am now the Communications Officer for the West Midlands Members Network. In our first committee meeting it was suggested that instead of a big summer social, which was a long-standing tradition of the CDG WM group, we could hold smaller socials across the region to help us promote the new Regional Member’s Network. We asked CILIP for a list of our member’s postcodes which they very helpfully provided, however this left me with a list over 700 postcodes with no other way to determine where these members might be living (the rest of the address data had been removed).

I used the starting letters of the postcodes to give us a rough breakdown, but this wasn’t very specific and in some cases a bit misleading (some postcodes are to the nearest major town, even if it’s across the county border). Obviously a map would be the easiest way to see, at a glance, where our members are all located – and therefore help us pick which towns to focus our social events in.

Having previously played with – I mean done some web development work with – Google Maps as part of my Masters course I knew it was possible to plot multiple points on a Google map, but it had been several years since I studied and decided that a quick Google search would be more helpful than hunting out my old notes! I very quickly found this article: which makes use of a Google Docs feature called Fusion Tables. This feature is, very helpfully, still available in the new look Google Drive, but as some of the buttons have moved a little I thought it might be worth a blog post to help others who are trying to do this!

1. Open and select ‘Create’ on the red button on the left

2. Select ‘Connect more apps’ and select Fusion Tables from the (many) options (I used the search feature!) If you have used Fusion Tables before they will appear in the shortlist under ‘Create’ in future.

3. If your data is currently in a spreadsheet you can import it from this initial screen:

Image 3

Or you can build your table from a Google Spreadsheet or from an empty table.

4. You will be taken through a setup process to convert the Excel spreadsheet into a Fusion Table. One to confirm if the column titles are in the spreadsheet and another to name the Table.

5. You will then see this:

Image 6

Which is your Table! I’m using the postcodes of some local public libraries for this example – but you could use any postcode or address data.

7. On the column showing the data you want to map (either Postcodes or Long./Lat. data) click the drop down option and select ‘Change’:

Image 7

8. Change the data type to Location (as opposed to Text or Number):

Image 8

9. Then select File > Geocode for the Fusion Table to process the data:

Image 9 Image 11

This will obviously take a while if you have a lot of data! I can’t remember how long it took to process the 700+ records I mapped for WMMN, but it didn’t take a massive amount of time!

10. Then open a new tab. Select the ‘+’ tab and then ‘Add Map’:

Image 12

(I’m not sure why it’s highlighted my data – it’s certainly not a necessary step!)

11. Select which Location Data column you want to use for your map:

Image 13

12. There’s your map!

Image 14

As with any Google map you can zoom and move around the map – and you can share the document with other people the same way you can any Google Drive document.

If you want to embed the map on a webpage you can publish the map using the drop down on the ‘Map 1’ tab:

Image 15 Image 16

Which will give you embed codes to add to your website:

The Content Management System that CILIP uses currently prevents me from embedding the WMMN Member’s Map on our webpages, although it’s hoped an upcoming software upgrade will allow this. I have temporarily uploaded a screenshot of the map as an image, but for the WMMN Committee to use it’s fine to just share the document for now!

I hope you have found the article interesting, if not useful. It seems like a lot of steps, but it’s actually very easy – I did the above example a few weeks after reading the instructions and without looking at the original article for prompts!


Filed under Misc