Category Archives: Misc

‘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!]

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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!

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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?

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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?

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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: http://www.ictcool.com/2011/09/19/how-to-plot-multiple-uk-addresses-by-postcode-on-a-google-map/ 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 http://drive.google.com 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:

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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):

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

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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’:

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(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:

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12. There’s your map!

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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:

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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!

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Why I’ve started using a third party app for Facebook

I’ve recently noticed that posts I’m writing on Facebook for pages I administer aren’t then popping up in my feed. At first I thought maybe it was just random, or related to the fact that I am the author of the post, but after talking to someone I’m on the West Midlands Members Network with I realised it wasn’t just me, as the author, who couldn’t see the posts – it was our users too.

This is obviously problematic, if my users can’t see my post they can’t engage in it. So I did a little digging online to try to solve the problem and found this article: http://techcrunch.com/2014/04/03/the-filtered-feed-problem/ Essentially, it is not a problem or a fault at all, but caused by Facebook filtering what it’s users see in their timeline.

The article talks you through a simplified version of the actual equation, but the most powerful determinants of whether a post is shown in the feed include:

  • How popular (Liked, commented on, shared, clicked) are the post creator’s past posts with everyone
  • How popular is this post with everyone who has already seen it
  • How popular have the post creator’s past posts been with the viewer
  • Does the type of post (status update, photo, video, link) match what types have been popular with the viewer in the past
  • How recently was the post published

though there are many more factors that impact visibility. This does not make me happy, either as a Page administrator, or as a user.

Take the CILIP West Midlands Facebook page as an example. The committee, for a variety of reasons, was fairly inactive last year and that included all of their social media, including Facebook. This means that our engagement with our followers is low and has been low for some time. I thought that by starting to post regularly it would help signify to our users that the new Regional Members Network (CILIP Branches merged with the local CDG and PTEG groups on April 1st) was up and running and active. But this won’t work if our users cannot see our posts.

As a user I want to be able to filter my news feed myself. I have friends on there that I’ve blocked from my feed, (and Farmville and Candy Crush Saga!) the friends and pages that I want to hear from, I want to see everything, not just posts from people I’ve interacted with recently, particularly because I use it for staying in touch with old uni friends. I don’t contact them regularly, but I still want to see updates! It shouldn’t matter how recently I’ve interacted with them up until that point!

When I got an Android tablet last year I wanted an app that would list my Twitter feed on my homepage, instead of just a link to the app. I tried a few, but Plume offered me the feature I wanted. It also gives you the ability to link more than one Twitter account so I’ve found it quite useful for browsing my personal and work/CILIP WM Twitter accounts as well. When I realised that Facebook was essentially hiding some of my news feed from me I linked my Facebook account to it as well. It doesn’t display third party images very well, but it means I don’t miss things coming into my feed, and I’ve been able to like posts from people whose posts I haven’t seen due to the filtering, which means their posts are now showing in my feed in the Facebook app!

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100 Happy Days!

I stumbled upon this article this evening: ‘A Beautiful Mess: 100 Happy Days!’ (http://google.com/newsstand/s/CBIwtszzlxo) which suggests listing one thing each day that made you happy. I’ve decided, on a whim, to give it a try! I generally consider myself to be an optimistic person, but I think we all get a bit stuck in routines and forget to appreciate things, and people, around us.

Today’s thing that made me happy was having Sunday Dinner with my parents and sister, we don’t do it very often, but I always enjoy it!

I’ll post my Things on Twitter each day, but I’ll do a round up periodically on the blog.

 

Update: the official 100 Happy Days website is http://100happydays.com/

 

 

 

 

 

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Facebook and general Social Media ramblings!

Social media, specifically their use by libraries, has been a bit of a theme for my work life for the last week or so.

Last week I submitted a book review to the Health Libraries Group newsletter on ‘Building Communities: Social networking for academic libraries‘ which focussed mainly on Facebook and Twitter. While the book is aimed at academic libraries, I think the ideas can be implemented in all types of libraries.

I administer the Facebook Page for my Library service, and while our number of followers is low, it is (very) slowly growing. Garofalo suggests sending out posts twice a week – enough to keep you popping up in the followers feed, but not enough to bombard them – and in all honesty I haven’t sent out many posts recently. Facebook is blocked on the work network so I have to use the one computer in the IT suite that is on the University network or do it at home (which isn’t really in my job description, but happens occasionally anyway!) The only problem with using the university computer is that if a student wants it I can’t have it, and typically when I make time to post something there’s a student sat there!

So I decided this week, with my post-book-review renewed enthusiasm for all things social media, that I was going to have a play with scheduled posts – I’ve known about it for some time, but never thought much about experimenting with it. I sat down yesterday and went through my diary for a few things to post about – I’ve picked a good few weeks to trial this with, we have a cake sale, two roadshows and three drop-in training sessions over the next five weeks so I’ve scheduled posts advertising all of them. The first scheduled post is due to go out tomorrow, which should be interesting!

Another piece of advice that Garofalo gave was to link your Library’s Facebook, Twitter and blog – which is something I did when we set up the Facebook and Twitter about two years ago – so as well as my scheduled posts users will be seeing anything that comes in from our blog – which we post to quite regularly – and our Tweets. Our Facebook doesn’t post to Twitter, I recall some logic to the decision when I made it two years ago, but can’t for the life of me recall it now, so I’m planning to set that up soon which will help populate our Twitter a little. We have managed to get our Twitter unblocked for a small number of library staff so that we can send messages from our desks, but we don’t always make time for it – maybe I should schedule some tweets too?!

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Quality and Safety in Medical Apps

I’ve been building a list of Medical Apps for my NHS Library service, with a view to publishing them on our website as ‘Recommended Medical Apps’, and for the most part I’ve been using well known names/companies/brands etc as a way of choosing the apps, but mostly out of habit rather than the thought that other apps might not be reliable.

This article points out that as few as 12% (12-35% depending on study cited) of medical apps – that is apps that can be used by medical professionals as evidence citations or even as medical tools/equipment – have a doctor’s (or other medical expert’s) input in the development of the app. To me, that’s just scary!

That’s aside from the fact that the medical advice they use to develop the app may not be updated as evidence changes over time, so even if they had a medical professional’s input at the start of development, in a few years that information could be outdated, or worse, considered dangerous.

With some studies (cited in the paper) suggesting that over 85% of medical professionals have smartphones and between 30-50% of them are using medial apps in clinical care it begs the question: should we, as Health Librarians, be covering Medical Apps in our Critical Appraisal and ‘finding evidence’ training sessions?

Thanks to The Krafty Librarian for bringing this to my attention!

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The Advantages of Temping

I spotted this article on the the Sue Hill Recruitment blog (they often discuss some interesting topics!) about getting a foot in the door at an organisation by taking on a temporary role.

I wanted to add my thoughts; I know without a doubt that I wouldn’t be where I am now without taking a chance on a part-time temporary job.

My only previous experience in libraries was as a volunteer, in my school library as a Student Library Assistant and a couple of months in my local branch library after I finished University.

I was working in a shop in 2009 after being made redundant from my previous job, and I was employed on a nil-hours contract (which are being discussed a lot lately, but I had a good boss which made a big difference!) I don’t think I would have taken the chance otherwise; I certainly wouldn’t have left my previous full time permanent job for a part-time temporary one! (I actually did both jobs, between the two I had full time work).

As I neared the end of my temporary contract one of my full time colleagues left for greener pastures and I applied for her job, thinking it was worth a chance if only because there wasn’t additional hours available in the shop! I got it – and I was thrilled. I hadn’t decided at that point if Libraries were a long term plan for me, but I had a full time permanent job and with a lot more security than nil-hours contracts offer!

I loved my job and the more I invested in my CPD the more I knew I was on the right track for me, and I started working towards my ACLIP Certification, intending eventually to do my Chartership. Twelve months later a position came up at my NHS Trust’s other site as a Senior Library Assistant and again I thought it was worth a chance, after all I had an extra 12 months experience on my CV! I got that as well, and even better someone who was working on a part-time maternity leave contract got my full time permanent position, so it was a win-win for both of us!

I will never doubt the ability of temporary work, or voluntary work, to give you an advantage when applying for jobs, maybe you just want experience in a different library sector, or maybe you want a foot in the door at a particular library/organisation, it is very useful, and definitely worthwhile.

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