Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Google - a love hate relationship

One of my Tweeps recently replied to a comment I made about searching for images that are not restricted by copyright:
So I learned something new about Google. I'm always learning new things about Google, and I'm always damn impressed. I don't necessarily want to be though. I know Google is a company whose customers are advertisers (not searchers!) and whose business is the collection of data (big data!), supplied for free by searchers. That means we searchers are Google's product. Google is selling us to advertisers and making a giant pile of money out of us. But who can do without Google these days? They supply such a good search product, so I will continue to supply them with my data.

Librarians are not in competition with Google - we use Google as much if not more than the average person! There are some great points here from The Wikiman. I like how he says "all we can do is help people use it better". For universities, Google is a great complement to their subscribed databases and book holdings. BUT it is no substitute for them.

This interesting article, published by The Association of College and Research Libraries has some awesome ideas about running courses in how students (who we know use Google for research) can use Google more effectively. I'd love to teach one of these courses at my college as part of an information literacy program.

Google is also starting to get in to the MOOC market. A post on their research blog describes how they have created an open source learning platform called course builder that allows anyone with something to teach to create a course. They have developed their own course called Mapping with Google to promote the features of their course builder (and their new look Google Maps). I've signed up for the course (hm... overextending myself?) - here's a preview. It also fits in nicely with this week's 23 mobile things topic - maps.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What is this GEOCACHING thing?

I've been hearing this word geocaching a bit lately and I've finally decided to find out what it's all about, prompted once again by anz23mobilethings. I started out by watching this:

It's kind of a treasure hunt for geeks, using a GPS (your smart phone should have GPS capability). So now I understand the basics, I've signed up at and I'm just learning a little more before I venture out to try find something.

Each geocache that is hidden is given a difficulty and terrain rating between 1 and 5, 1 being the easiest and the recommended starting point. There are 4 different sizes of cache, and they could look like anything. A regular or large sized cache is probably a good size to start with.

I've just downloaded the Geocaching app onto my iPhone. The free version lets you access three geocaches near your current location. After that you have to fork out $9.99 for the premium app. The app is pretty basic. It is giving me 3 near-by locations where caches are hidden, and they are all between 40 and 400 metres from where I'm sitting! Unfortunately they are all also 'tiny' (actually the size of a mint tin) but I guess they have to be in the middle of a city. I had a look at the location map on the website - man, this game is popular! There are so many, even in the Aussie outback.

I just went out to look for the closest one, creatively named Cache Wars V - the Cache Strikes Back, and sadly couldn't find it... maybe it had been cleaned away as rubbish. Pretty sure I looked like an idiot too, looking at my iPhone and then in various office-building flower beds. I sent my technician out to look for the next one on her break, but she came back empty-handed too. I think this brings me to the end of my geocaching adventure.

Does this have potential for libraries? Well I really love what the British Library did - or rather what a couple of geocachers who also love libraries (and math, it seems) got permission to do in the BL. As for my library, it's not open to the public, so there isn't a lot of potential there, and the same goes for the Foursquare app, although I'm quite enjoying it for my personal use - the hidden cafe gems it suggests, and the special offers!

Have you tried geocaching? Did you find anything? Would you pay for the premium app?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What is information literacy?

The topic for week two of the Swimming in the Information ocean is defining information literacy. One of the tutors introduced a document that I wasn's aware of (probably should have been!) called the Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework which contains 6 core standards. Follow the link to read more.

This isn't just a skill for librarians or students - now that so much information is available to everyone, information literacy has become a necessary life skill.
I created the following based on some course notes - everytime librarians was written, I replaced it with I, just to see how I felt about it. Hope I can live up to it!

I am the ultimate search engine. I know how to find the best information whether it’s in a book, a video, a pamphlet or on a website. Teaching others how to find and evaluate information is a unique skill that I bring to a society encountering a bewildering avalanche of information.

Information literacy beyond library 2.0 is an article by Peter Godwin that had some interesting ideas that reflect our times. For example, instead of making students into librarians, we should concentrate on giving them the necessary tools for building up their understanding of their chosen discipline. We should be aiming to light sparks rather than fill vessels.

Although, I'm still not sure how this works in practice. Are the two really that different? The author blasted purely theoretical positions and drew attention to the divide between researchers and practicioners, but I didn't get anything practical out of the article. Maybe the following chapters illuminate his ideas a little.

I see the students where I work struggle with finding information and I want to help them. I had a look at some universities chosen information literacy tools, like Edith Cowan's PILOT and QUT's Online tutorial. These are nice packages, but I have the feeling that students prefer to learn by experience within their subject. Still, I'm keeping an open mind...

YAY! I got 100% on my first attempt in the Week 3 quiz  :)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Learning Email

So it's 4:10 on a Thursday afternoon and I've finally cleared my email inbox for the day, 20 minutes before hometime. Before I started working in a library I never associated email with work. Somehow I managed to avoid work email for a fair chunk of my life, working as an ESL teacher. That was all about face-to-face communication, and it's still what I prefer. However. Reality got in the way and now half of my work team is distributed over 5 states, and email is the normal mode of communication.

Emailing for work involves treading carefully and thinking about your message from the point of view of the receiver. I've made mistakes in the past, gotten into trouble because of poor email etiquette, but it's something that has to be learned and after that there are no more excuses! Some things to avoid, especially when emailing busy people in Con's post here.

I'm very happy if I can deal with all of my emails in a day, sort them into their correct folders and have an empty inbox ready for the new day. It happens... occasionally.

I remember being a university student in 1994 and thinking that email was so clunky! There were 2 computers in the campus library that were dedicated to email (black screen, green letters - remember?), and about 12 computers for searching the databases. Using them for browsing the internet was frowned upon. It was funny, but the only other people I knew then who used email were my fellow students and my lecturers, who checked it occasionally. What do you write in an email to people you see everyday? And frustrating to que at the email computers to check your inbox and find nothing!

Now of course there's no need to check your inbox to see if there's anything new - your mobile will just tell you. When cloud-based email came along I was keen to get onboard, as I spent a lot of my twenties travelling and keeping in touch with friends and family by email. Picture the travellers' internet cafe. I transitioned through a couple of creatively named hotmail addresses before getting into Gmail early and was able to choose to use my own simple name (with no numbers!) By the end of my second degree I was happily emailing attachments to myself as a way of saving them in the cloud.

Thinking about email on the go in a work context, I could access my work emails through webmail from home, but I don't want to...

At our library we use automated email messages to communicate with patrons about items due, holds available and I also use it a fair bit for reference work, as many of our students are studying online, externally. They definitely appreciate being contacted by email for these purposes. The mobile library site we're developing at the moment will make it super-easy for students to contact a librarian via email - we'll have a menu tab for the purpose that will link right into their mobile email account. This is a really exciting development for us!

OK, I'm off to check out the Mailbox app, as suggested by Bailey's Bus.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Swimming in the information ocean

So I've started another online course. Glutton for punishement! This one is all about how to stay on top of information overload especially as it related to the future of the library industry and providing library services. This first week, a number of our 'readings' are vidoes, so I'm working my way through them here, reflecting as I go. Feel free to join in!

Did you know 3.0? 

The thing I took away from this one is a new perspective on the modern age. Sure I know technology has been developing at the speed of light lately, but to picture a graph with time on one axis and amount of information being produced on the other, well, it's exponential. Even the number of words in our languages is going up exponentially! In the history of humankind, no people have had to deal with a situation like ours today, to organise so much data. Can we manage?

Did you know? 4.0

So this was created in 2009, a short four years ago. I think some of their statistics may already be out of date! How about the one that say the mobile device will be the world's primary connection tool to the Internet in 2020?

I suspect is already is! I totally agree when they say it's easier to reach a large audience, but harder to connect with it. I was thinking about my online reading habits. It's actually really rare for me to be searching for something really specific when I'm using social media. So much of it is browsing, scanning, surfing around almost aimlessly. Is that the way to navigate through huge amounts of data? It also seems to be all about the 'new', and things become old really quickly. I still don't really get what is meant by convergence though...

Library of the Future

OK, so there's the old way and the new way. I'm for the new way. I'm ready for a constantly growing and changing work environment, I'm all for green / sustainable libraries, and I agree that creativity and suitability for the job should determine our roles rather than job title. Bring it on!

Ted talks are brilliant. I keep forgetting how brilliant they are until I watch another one. This one's about the future of libraries, from a passionate library advocate. She poses the question - when everything is online, why come to the library? I visit the library all the time, so here are my reasons why, and it's kind of the opposite of what she has suggested. I have enough online in my life - so I go to the library to check out physical books. I like to get deeply involved in the world of my book and forget everything else. I often finish novels in one sitting when there are no distractions. I also love the fact that they are there in the middle of every community, and they are familiar, welcoming places for everyone.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Academic life

One of my favourite librarian blogs is Ned Potter's The Wikiman. He's an academic liaison librarian and does loads of cool stuff. Recently he posted this presentation on his website, which is SPOT ON! So much great research and ideas in here - really relevant for my current job.

At our library we have an information literacy program. We have library orientations for each new cohort of students, we have regular training sessions on our preferred reference manager and databases and we offer sessions-on-demand, often delivered in the student's own classrooms. But still, the most common questions I get are about Microsoft Office programs like Word, how to use the computers (their own and the library PCs) for tasks such as uploading documents and taking screenshots, and also of course help in locating research relating to their assignment questions. As well as the above mentioned points, they often mention how much time it takes them to do everything, especially searching. And how many times have I heard them say to a friend that they've finished their assignment, they just need to find some references!! These students may be technology literate, but they still need a lot of support in information literacy, especially digital information literacy.

My advice for first year students, that I spout at every opportunity...
  • Understand that Google is just one place you can search for information. Google can not search the deep web, but your Library Search can
  • Understand that a thorough search takes time, so start early. Attempt to search all potential sources of information before beginning your assignment
  • Be critical of your sources; ask yourself how authoritative the source of information is
  • Don't write your assignment, or come to your conclusions before doing the research
  • Get used to using a reference manager. It will take time at the beginning, but will save time in the end
  • Check your referencing carefully - its one of the most common areas where students lose marks but one of the easiest things to fix
  • Understand academic writing conventions - the library has resources to help you with this
  • Be patient and methodical - it pays off
  • Ask your librarian... anything!
The University of York (incidentally, a wonderful little city where I lived for 2 years) is doing amazing things in education. Ned's presentation has given me some ideas about how to support students in the future. I'd love to make a presentation like this one for my students:

Everyone love things with titles like "6 things that will...", "The 10 best...". I think about half the books I catalogued for W.A. public libraries today (my other job...) started with something like that!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Healthy Balance

Everyone talks about work life balance. I'd like to add in another factor that needs balancing, and that's health. When I started my job as librarian at a college that offers courses in alternative and complementary health, I started thinking about this issue a whole lot more. I'd just spent 2 years studying for a post-graduate diploma in information and library management whilst holding down two part-time jobs, with a stressful interlude involving re-locating from Japan to Perth. Over those 2 years my health suffered - i got backaches and neckaches from slouching in front of computers, and I put on weight. I was often tired, and my diet wasn't healthy.

When I finally finished my studies and got a regular 9-5 librarian job, I felt my unhealthy lifestyle had gone on long enough. My first priority was my back. I took myself along to the college's student practitioner clinic (the students are in their 3rd of 4th year of their studies) and signed up for weekly Swedish relaxation massages. During the first session I was shocked when the student commented on how tight and knotted my back muscles were - her supervisor said the same thing. I felt better after the massage. The clinic offers other therapies - I tried acupuncture to improve my circulation and to target my back pain, Chinese massage for the same, and Nutrition therapy to balance my diet. I signed up one of the students (already a qualified personal trainer) to help me work on my fitness and I started doing daily yoga at home with the help of an iPhone app. I walk to work. I got rid of my TV. I also became vegetarian. I've been doing all of these things for the past four months or so, and it has made such a difference!

Recently I've once again been spending quite a lot of time in front of the screens, at work and at home. I love getting on Twitter, doing online courses like 23 mobile things and another one starting soon called Swimming in the Information Ocean. I just love learning. But more than that, I value my health, so I'm determined to keep the balance and not get over-absorbed. I want to work hard, but I also want to enjoy my life, and I want to be smart and mindful in how I do it. There's still a lot of room for improvement!

An interesting link here about Work life balance in library school.

My favourite YOGA app. I do yoga with this app for 20 minutes every morning. So quick, easy and best off all, free :)

There's also a nice 'Exercises for Office Workers' poster from Deakin University here.

Stay healthy, people!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Instagram, or, Showing Off

This Pinterest board photography apps page is just chock-full of good stuff - thanks again 23 mobile things! After following a link to a page about 10 interesting ways to use Instagram for your library, I was inspired to do some showing off...

#1 Show off your books

Instagram in combination with a library Twitter post would be perfect for showing off our new books as, sadly, we don't really have much space for a new book display.

#2 Show off your events and services

A bit boring, but could be effective? At least the message is clear!

#3 Go behind the scenes, or, above the scenes

#4 Show off your patrons (patron photos)

I know this isn't what is meant by showing off your patron photos... but as this is all theoretical at the moment...

#5 Give a sneak peek

Big book sale coming! Start getting excited!

#6 Share your office (or, Library Technician in her natural habitat)

#7 Take your patrons with you

Didn't have anything for this one, so here's how we're using QR codes instead :)

#8 Introduce your librarians


#9 Show off your library space, or, your remaining print journals with 2 skeletons in the background

#10 Turn print marketing materials into digital ones

Lesson learned - Instagram doesn't connect nicely with Blogger. The best blog platform to connect with Instagram is Tumblr, for sure. On a pc there is very little you can do with Instagram. It's truly a mobile tool. Other sharing tools that Instagram works nicely with are Facebook, Email, Flickr, Twitter and Foursquare. For this post I had to use screenshots, too time-consuming :(

I use a pc or laptop to write my blog and that is a conscious choice because I want to take time and whenever possible, go into a bit of depth. Phones are not ideal for that - yet! But check out this awesome movie that I spotted on YouTube. Reality? Not yet, but who knows in the future...

I'll finish with a comment about why I use the Blogger platform. I've had a personal blog on the Blogger platform since 2003 that I've updated regularly and had a lot of fun with. I like to play with the HTML code for my blog, change the code around and learn it. I've got a long way to go with code though, and HTML is definately no longer the flavour of the month as far as code goes. But it's easy and I like it.

Found a great document here called "Is your library ready for a social media librarian?'

Monday, May 13, 2013

Lurk, Broadcast, Create, Engage

There's lots of stuff floating around the Interwebs at the moment about engagement with social media.

Like this Stages of PLN adoption infographic and article, written a few years ago but still provoking discussion.

Abigail asked, which stage are you at?
OK, so I've definatley been through the stages of immersion (twice...) and evaluation (including irrational frustration that some of my key people are not on Twitter). I think I'm possibly going through the know it all stage again right now with the 23 Mobile Things course. I love the perspective stage, leaving it all behind to enjoy a wireless holiday (gone is that jittery addiced feeling!). And finally balance. A worthy goal. I tried a bit of balance yesterday. After realising that I'd been connected and connecting online all day, I read a book in the evening. But why did by mind keep sneakily returning to my mobile and my Twitter feed? I didn't allow myself to check it, but whatever happened to the days that I could immerse myself in a book and not be distracted by ANYTHING?

One way I've decided to combat this addictive feeling, apart from consciously choosing to switch off when it's sensible to do so, is to be less of a lurker / broadcaster and more of a creater / engager. It forces me to slow down and choose what to respond to, which is whatever moves me to do so. I've been a terrible lurker in the past. But I'm determined to change. Here's my list:

1. Use my blog to reflect on what moves me
2. Post comments on others' blogs
3. Converse more, broadcast less on Twitter and Instagram

Another thing I liked recently was this post on the Forbes website. Jessica's post was called How to be Interesting but I would re-title it Being the Best You Can Be (sounds less like you're tyring to please someone, doesn't it?) or even Things to Consider When Blogging. She's got 10 points, each with a cute little infographic. One of them was "embrace your innate weirdness" - apparently that's what makes us as indiviuals interesting.

My favourite blogs to follow are the ones that have a little bit of personal / strange content as well as lots of professional content. Now to implement that in my own blog...

Disruptive Technologies

I was sent a link to this talk by Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt (I mean the talk was by him, not that I was sent the link by him...) on the topic of disruptive technologies. He made some good points. He said that when it comes to new technologies there are so many of them that you really need to look at them with some kind of filter. I guess many people choose to find out about technologies based on how interested they are in them, but he said that there were just too many of these! So instead he suggested focusing on the ones that are likely to have a big impact - to be game-changers.

Interestingly the first example he gave of these game-changer technologies was digital technology in biology. In one of my previous posts I mentioned medical uses of the iPhone and the advances in this area really blow me away. I've also mentioned that I work in an academic / health library for a college whose focus is natural medicine (think naturopathy, acupuncture, remedial and musculo-skeletal therapy, nutrition). What part is technology playing in these fields? It's sure to be a bigger part in the future than we think!

On the topic of education, Schmidt thinks there is nothing more important. He pointed out that there's a great race taking place all around us, between humans and automation. Low-wage workers are losing their jobs to machines and what's the solution? Better education so that people can be paid for work with their minds, something a computer can not do. Machines are taking over automatic processes everywhere we look - Schmidt also gives the exampe of a Google product called Now which runs on your smart device and learns your habits, and can predict your needs. It knows your route to work and can alert you to traffic jams on that route at your travelling time! Computers are getting more intelligent, but the very human ability of judgement is needed and always will be.

Still on the topic of education, I signed up to do my first Coursera course back in March and the topic was disruptive technologies. I'm sad to say I stopped participating after a few weeks, not because the course was bad, it was actually fascinating. I just ran out of speed. After seeing one of my tweeps post her certificate of accomplishment yesterday on Twitter, I feel fired up to tackle another one.

There's a library MOOC starting in September. I'm going to do it, and I'm going to finish it (self pep-talk). It's all about emerging trends in library world and keeping up with them! Join me?

23 mobile things - Instagram

23 Mobile Thing 2: Instagram - I've had it for a long time but rarely used it, and not at all for social or work purposes. I only thought about the cool editing effects that could be created! Too much editing is not always a good thing though - I'm pretty sick of washed out-looking sixties-style photos... 

I would agree 100% with the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. We are visual beings. We recognise and respond to pictures so much faster than to text (I think I remember learning that in psych at uni...). I read Kim's great introductory post on taking a photo with a mobile device, but when I got to the thinking points none of them jumped out as relevant for my library. So it was with curiosity that I watched the short movie Bond University produced about how they used their Instagram account to 'highlight the library as an integral part of the student experience'.

It got me thinking, could we use Instagram for example to take awesome photos of the library and integrate them into our marketing materials to promote the 'student experience'? Could we use Instagram to take photos to promote our database of the month, our new books, our friendly staff? Could we run some sort of competition? Would there be a chance that the managers would approve any of it? 

Next step - to have a look at Flickr (I've joined the anz 23 mthings Flickr pool) and Snapchat in more depth.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Master Your Mac

I've got this book out, it's due back tomorrow. I would really like to return it with at least the first chapter's info tightly lodged in my brain. The chapter is called The best shortcuts (and how to make your own) in the book Master Your Mac by Matt Cone (2013). I love the idea of keyboard shortcuts and I know most of the basic ones, but there are so many more!

In my job I get a lot of students plopping their laptop or tablet on the reference desk and asking for help with all sorts of things, from finding articles in our databases, to importing PDFs into Mendeley, to formatting their Word document... all sorts of things. I need to know how to troubleshoot on a pretty wide range of devices and operating systems, and actually I quite enjoy doing it. Things change fast though, and I'm often learning on the go (Windows 8 ... um...). I've decided the next step in my learning is widening my knowledge of keyboard shortcuts! Starting with Mac, and also Gmail (this infographic has been all over the Internet lately, I stumbled on it through good old Twitter).

The one thing that around 95% of the students have in common when they come to see me for help is that they don't have a lot of time. They're in a rush and they want an answer fast. Keyboard shortcuts come in super-handy (and always impress the students too!). Something a student asked me recently is how to do a screenshot on a mac. Here are a few good shortcuts I found for that from this website.

Use Command-Shift-3 to take a screen shot of whatever is on the screen, save as a file on the desktop
Use Command-Shift-4 to select an area, take a screen shot of it, save as a file on the desktop

Use Command-Control-Shift-3 to take a screenshot and save to the clipboard
Use Command-Control-Shift-4 to select an area, take a screen shot of it, save to the clipboard

As I've been writing this post I've come to the realisation that I can't remember more than a few new keyboard shortcuts at a time. I have to go off and practice a bit before I get carried away!

So, back to the book I was supposed to be getting these shortcuts from... I tried out a couple of their suggestions and they didn't work! I ended up using Google to find out how to do them. I'm still not the master of my Mac, but I'm making progress.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

23 mobile things - Twitter

Mobiles and libraries - topics occupying my mind a lot at work lately! So it's great timing that the Australia and NZ 23 Mobile Things has come along. I'm planning to examine one thing each week for the next 23 weeks, and to reflect on it here.

The first thing is Twitter, and I'll start with a history of my use. At first I was uninterested. I had a look when it started to take off and thought it was full of inane, uninteresting 140 character tweets about boring details of people's personal lives. People I didn't know. But then I started a serious-sounding subject at Curtin University called Information Management Technology and my lecturer Kathryn Greenhill set  learning how to use Twitter as our first assignment, so I was forced to take a closer look.

Actually, I'm glad I did. As an external student (I started the course while living in Japan) I found I had an instant network of people who were interested in libraries and information just like I was, and posted not just comments, but also questions, answers, links to library news, blogposts and reports and all sorts of other things. I started to see the value in it.

I was using Twitter at the exact time of the massive earthquake in Japan that resulted in the deaths of thousands of people and the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima. I felt the earthquake, rushed outside until it subsided, then went back in and tweeted it. Less that a minute after the earthquake, my fellow students in Australia had heard the news. When other types of communication failed in the aftermath, Twitter was used by people to contact relatives and friends, and for emergency services to direct people, especially foreigners, to safety.

Now I use Twitter pretty much every day to see what's new and to feel connected to the library world. I have to admit that I lurk more than I post, and more often than not that's a retweet. One of my new year's resolutions was actually to tweet more! After exploring Twitter again as part of 23 Mobile Things  I've starting using lists to filter my Twitter stream.

The academic / health library I work at doesn't use social media (yet!). I'm informally gathering ideas on what kind of things libraries tweet about. There's a good list on the 23 Mobile Things blog, most of which I think would be relevant for my library.

Developing a mobile strategy for the library

I was pretty late to the party with smart phones - my first and only was purchased in 2012, an iPhone 4. I still don't have an iPad and I'm not planning on getting one. I have my MacBook Air, my iPhone, and a Kindle and that does me nicely for now. But my mobile is the device I use the most. And the things it can do just blow me away.

I came across this webpage medical uses of the iPhone that showed how the iPhone is being used as an ECG monitor, a microscope, an ultrasound scanner, and an otoscope amongst other things. Wow. And most of this technology is not even expensive. I work in an tertiary institution that offers degrees in health science, and our budget is always tight, especially for medical equipment. We have a dire need for more microscopes and otoscopes - perhaps these developments could solve our problems?

So I've been thinking about libraries and mobile devices lately. We're working on a project to get our library website optimised for viewing on mobile devices. Well, not only that. We'd also like to make use of the portability and the ease/speed of use of mobiles to make it super easy for library users to carry out common library tasks such as searching the catalogue and databases, renew books, check the referencing guide and so on.

Doing the research for the project has been fascinating! One thing I found that I will definitely be returning to is the American Libraries Live website. Dan Freeman had the idea of discussing a trending library topic each month with a panel of experts, recording it, and making it available to the connected world. Thanks! I watched a live recording of an interview between Dan Freeman and some knowledgeable library folk on the topic of Mobile Services: The Library in Your Pocket. Good stuff here!

A couple more American sites and blogposts:

Library websites adapt to smartphone growth discusses responsive website design and adapting the website to prioritise the most common tasks usually done on the particular device.

The mobile challenge: The user experience focuses on how libraries may have responsive web design but if the transition to the catalogue or the database pages are not smooth, the user will not be satisfied with the experience.

More to come on this as our project develops...