Thursday, 28 March 2013

SLA Europe - 60 apps and websites in 60 minutes

On Tuesday 19th March, I travelled almost the entire way down the Metropolitan line, from Uxbridge to Moorgate, to City Business Library where Anneli Sarkanen and Simon Barron were holding their SLA Europe session entitled 60 Apps and sites in 60 minutes.

Inspired by similar sessions from SLA Chicago, we were told these were going "to improve our lives immeasurably". I couldn't wait!

It was split neatly up into productivity, communication, legal, technology, business, social networking, lifestyle, travel and fun and games.There were actually more than than 60 apps and websites and I am not going to go into each and every one, however, you can discover the entire list in the slides of the presentation. Having had a little time since 19th March to try out some of the apps and websites the following are some I am going to be using in the future:

  • - I tend to use and tinyurl interchangeably however a reminder that I could record the statistics has encouraged me to use this one more regularly, especially at work, to assess their impact
  • Doodle - I love Doodle and already use this regularly to arrange committee or work meetings
  • I haven't used this for years but looking at it again has reminded me how fantastic it is. It is a useful tool I can use to brush up on my own knowledge as well as  point out to all my students
  • - this looks like it could potentially be very useful, however I'm struggling for good ideas to put it to use. I don't want to post things automatically to Twitter from any of the accounts I look after as I like to assess the benefit of everything I send
  • Pocket - I'd never heard of this but it looks great. I usually save articles from Twitter by saving them as favourites but then need the internet to read them. Using this means I can access them anywhere, even when underground, as I no longer have to rely on the internet
  • - I have been using Librarything to record my reading over the last year and liked it, however, the site is not very mobile friendly so as Goodreads has an app, which scans barcodes too, I am going to try converting to this.
Those are the main ones, however, I will also be going through the legal websites as quite a number of these will prove useful in supporting my students, for example, supplies summaries of all the European union legislation which would be of value to both my Economics and my Politics students. I will also be highlighting, which monitors website changes to my Masters students when I deliver my 'how to keep up to date' session. These, as well as several websites mentioned in the Business section, will also be welcome additions to my subject pages at work.

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening; Anneli and Simon were well-prepared, humorous and engaging and the event provided a good chance to catch up with people I like. Definitely looking forward to attending more SLA Europe events.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Library Camp London 2013

On Saturday 2nd March, I spent the day at an unconference called LibraryCamp. I attended the first UK Library Camp in 2011 and last year's too, however, this is the first time I have attended a regional one. I can't say there was much difference; there was just as much lovely food and it, seemed like anyway, a similar number of people.

I've always liked the collaborative and democratic ways the Library Camps are ran. Everyone brings and shares food, people offer ideas to the wikis set up beforehand and there are pitches from all library and information types to discuss relevant topics.

For more information about the range of sessions delivered and for pictures, take a look at the event wiki.

As always, it was difficult to choose which ones to go as there was such a range of interesting and potentially useful sessions. In the end the five I attended were on vision, the future, the problem of the printed book, what would the world look like if librarians ruled the world and lastly, librarianship and personality. So, slightly more whimsical than my usual fare but much more forward looking and strategic.

Scheduled session pitches
Some notes and highlights I took away with me:

How to keep vision when dealing with operations, led by Kathy Baro:

We were asked how do we keep an overarching vision in mind while doing your everyday tasks. It turns out that this is a problem quite a few face - we are so caught up in the here and now that we forget the bigger picture, and while it is great to be mindful of every situation, event or person we are dealing with it can sometimes mean the service doesn't move forward. One example given which ensured that people did stay in touch with the vision was to ensure that the strategic objectives were visible at every staff meeting. By becoming commonplace they were not shrouded in mystery which resulted everyone knowing and understanding the reasons behind their everyday tasks. I agree with Liz Jolly, whose point it was, that you should always know why you are doing something.

It was mentioned that those not involved in the physical day to day running of libraries can spend more time on the vision but aren't always able to see its impact  - this led to a discussion about the importance of bringing everyone, at all levels, into the creation of the Library's vision. It goes without saying that it needs to be aligned with the overall institution's. As we went round the group and listened to each others' experiences, it became clear that often strategic plans are just given to staff so I feel lucky that at my current institution everyone was involved in the process. One final thought, before the session came to a close, was that ideally a personal vision shouldn't conflict with a work one as this is a recipe for unhappiness and stress.

Future of librarianship, led by Simon Barron:

This was a very well organised session and wouldn't have been out of place at a regular conference. Simon even wrote an introductory blogpost explaining his ideas behind his pitch. Many ideas were covered including changing technologies, robot hybrids, digital libraries, and the future of librarianship. The idea was suggested that librarians have stress because they suffer from information overload; emails and smartphones are leading to reduced memory and librarians are losing control as they are very susceptible to this. Due to the large numbers we were split into groups and ours pondered information overload and digital information - there was some dissent over the aforementioned suggestion as one Stella Wisdom remarked that using apps had improved her memory. This led to discussion on weeding and print versus digital book and how discovery tools are solving but also causing problems for users. There were a lot of themes to cover in a very short period of time and I'm not sure we did any of them justice, however, there was a unanimous agreement that people, not robots, were needed to help people sift through the information and teach people how to make good judgements. Well, we would say that wouldn't we?!

Collection management - stewardship of collections, led by David Clover:

I attended this because I thought it would be focused on weeding, something that I have a little difficulty persuading a couple of my subject departments to consider. However, it was mainly focused on reserves which I don't really know much about - it was interesting nonetheless and I was intrigued to find out more about salt mines and military bunkers being used for storage and how despite them being very good for storage they are incredibly costly if anything needs to be retrieved. Universities regularly weed to keep the collections fresh and alive but there is always the danger of throwing out something important that isn't available anywhere else at all. To ensure the sustainability and availability of monographs there needs to be a shared service between Higher Education and and public libraries there doing for monographs what the UK Research Reserve does for journals. One final comment from the group, Stella Wisdom again (!)  suggested that if libraries were to become privatised there would be a central cooperative created straightaway...

If librarians take over the world, led by Anna Brynolf:

I attended this as it sounded like fun. The idea behind it was that as librarians are very liberal and open minded and they would have rather left leaning ethics and policies if they ran the world. So, if they did:
  • there would be more freedom of information
  • there would be free access to medical trial data
  • everyone would have broadband
  • copyright law would not exist - though there would still be authors' rights
  • a more feminised culture would ensue as the profession is approximately 74% women
  • there would be plenty of public space to break down barriers
  • universities as they stand wouldn't exist because there would be lifelong learning via the internet instead
  • there would be fewer criminals as literacy levels would be much higher
A proper manifesto wasn't created, however, some interesting ideas were discussed and the legal and business librarians looked increasingly worried! I was concerned that by being in power, librarians would no longer be able just to focus on working for the public good and their emphasis would shift from altruism to wanting to stay in power. As I recently discovered in a lecture on the psychology of leadership this regularly happens as soon as someone is given a position of authority - absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Librarianship and personality, led by Rosie Hare and Andrew Preater:

Having accidentally found myself reading a lot about personality, psychology and leadership recently I figured that this session would fit in quite nicely with this theme. While it is good to be reflective, I sometimes think librarians spend a lot of time thinking and talking about this topic and was curious to find out why they wish to classify themselves. I tend to have a bit of everything when it comes to personality types or traits so I never feel like I fit neatly into a box, however, I don't feel the need go out of the way to do lots of 'crazy' things to prove this point.  We started the session stood up in a line with introverts (energy is depleted when with others) at one end and extroverts (who get their energy from others) at the other. As an ambivert (see what i mean?!) I stood in the middle.

We then split into groups and our group was tasked with looking at what personality traits a librarian should ideally have. We discussed how due to the sheer enormity of roles available for librarians to do it was actualy a good profession for all types as there's something for everyone. I raised the point that whatever role you do, whether it be digitising or teaching, empathy is a key trait to have as you always need to think about the experience of the user. For those who would like to know more about this topic Andrew Preater has written a fantastic summary of the session and the reasons behind it.

One difference I have noticed is how much slicker the sessions are becoming; when I led a session at the first Library Camp we all just had a big discussion about the topic in question which was HE in FE but now people are planning things out much more thoroughly. This does mean more content is covered and it is recorded effectively, however, I do hope it doesn't scare away people who haven't pitched a session before.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

LIKE 43: Coaching or how to listen without judgement

Listening and asking powerful questions are two key tips to becoming a good coach. Karen Drury, an executive coach, told us as she started her session on coaching at LIKE 43. Described as professional nagging, coaching is not a cosy chat where someone will pat your arm and offer condolences but where someone will give people choices about the type of life they lead and the reactions they have to events they experience.

Karen described four ways people listen:
  • Cosmetic listening - looking like you are listening but not really engaging - your mind is probably in a completely different place
  • Engaged listening - listening but most likely also planning your response at the same time
  • Active listening - the listener is taking in what is being said and asking relevant questions
  • Deep listening - really intense and focused listening, not just taking into account the words spoken but also taking in the hidden subtext behind them
Most people listen either cosmetically or engaged, few listen actively or deeply. Coaches do the latter. Active & deep conversations tend to take longer and deep listening can be exhausting as it takes into account body language, skin flushes and voice pitch.
We discussed when to ask closed and open questions; closed questions which need a yes or no answer help clarify meaning and can set actions and open questions are required for information gathering. Whether it is an open or closed question it should be simple, purposeful and assumption free.
We were then given a wheel of life to fill in to assess where we had gaps in our life. After which we partnered up and played coach and coachees focusing on one of the areas we believed were lacking in our lives. I partnered with someone who felt like he would like to make more contribution to society so I asked him how he saw himself making this contribution. Within three minutes he had gone from a vague idea of thinking he'd like to contribute more to a quite specific plan of action! Turns out my coaching skills might be pretty good!

Photo courtesy of Virginia Henry: dinner time at LIKE 43
As you'd expect the happiest people & quite often the most successful people were ones who have high scores in all aspects of their lives. This is a theme that  has recently been cropping up quite regularly for me as not only did it feature in the most recent Library Leadership Reading Group book but it's also featured in several blog posts over the last few months. Here are a couple of good examples:


I've known for a while there's areas of my life which aren't balanced at all and moving house has made this even worse as it's taken me away from many things I used to enjoy, however, this event laid it out quite starkly for me. So, time to make a few changes...