31 Mar 2012

Library Facebook bundles

Colette Harlowe at GMIT put together Libraries on Facebook.

Libraries on Facebook represents two separate RSS feed bundles. One group contains international library Facebook accounts, whereas another one tunes into libraries from Ireland. They may be subscribed to by anyone with a gmail address. This is the shortened link to the 50 international bundle: http://goo.gl/kbSmi

This is the shortened link to the 46 libraries from Ireland bundle: http://goo.gl/UEWyT

How do you use this?
New to GoogleReader? This video from Google provides you with a short introduction. Log in to your Google Reader and click subscribe. Copy the link into the box and click add.

Why did Colette create this?
Colette wanted to follow updates on Facebook without having to to log in directly. Membership on Facebook is not required. This may be of interest to libraries that are formulating their social media policy/strategy and wish to research just what other libraries are up to on Facebook.
Posted on Saturday, March 31, 2012 | Categories:

30 Mar 2012

Ten minutes of Tim Berners-Lee and linked open data

In ten minutes Tim Berners-Lee explains his five star scheme for data using a packet of crisps: one star is awarded for simply putting up any kind of data and making it available to people, whilst five stars are reserved for linked open data.

This is also a very nice illustration of what the different levels of data look like in practice, as well as the costs and benefits attached to each, using an example of the temperature forecast for Galway for the next 3 days, by Dr Michael Hausenblas at DERI, NUIG.

29 Mar 2012

IFLA Media and Information Literacy Recommendations

IFLA, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, published a new set of guidelines this morning: IFLA Media and Information Literacy Recommendations had been drawn up in co-operation with UNESCO's Information for All Programme (IFAP) and were endorsed by the governing body last year.

So what is this all about?

According to the document, Information and Media Literacy has been recognised as a basic human right. Not only do these skills make a difference in an educational setting, but they are also part of lifelong learning for all. They enable marginalised groups to increase their own employability, help all citizens make informed choices and contribute to the well-being of an individual.

Interestingly, IFLA includes all type of information resources - not only print and digital, but also oral information, which is often being neglected in discussions about Information Literacy.

Exciting from a librarian's perspective is the emphasis on continuing professional development for information professionals. IFLA called on governments and organisations to:

  • Support professional development for education, library, information, archive, and health and human services personnel in the principles and practices of Media and Information Literacy and Lifelong Learning

  • Include Media and Information Literacy in the core and continuing education of information professionals, educators, economic and government policymakers and administrators, as well as in the practice of advisors to the business, industry and agriculture sectors

So information professionals are being recognised as both trainers and trainees when it comes to Media and Information Literacy. It will take time to filter down to a national and local level, of course, but this document should give those of us active in the profession a renewed mandate to lobby for resources on behalf of our colleagues and our patrons. Librarians need time and space to develop their own skills in order to support users. This involves getting funding to attend courses and also time to reflect on work practices. Students in Library Schools should have access to Media and Information Literacy modules as part of their degree.
Posted on Thursday, March 29, 2012 | Categories:

28 Mar 2012

Too Big To Know - David Weinberger (Review)

The first time I came across David Weinberger was when I read his paper Tagging and Why it Matters* a few years ago, so before I even opened the book I figured the central premise of Too Big To Know would be closely linked to concepts like information overload, social filters and metadata. Whilst this is certainly true, Weinberger's analysis is thankfully not that simplistic and one-sided.

He begins his argument with the idea that information overload is not a new problem 'created' by the internet, echoing a similar point made by James Gleick in last year's excellent The Information. Ever since Gutenberg's printing press individuals have felt overwhelmed by the idea that there is more information out there than one can possibility assimilate in a lifetime (so there goes my dream of being a Renaissance man polymath...). The internet is simply the latest incarnation of a longstanding problem, but as Weinberger argues it is not so much a 'problem', but rather a fact. In print form, ideas were theoretically connected but often physically separate; in the online world knowledge is communicated, linked and shared within the context of a network (or multiple networks) - and it is the network which becomes most valuable. Expertise is no longer something which can be narrowly defined. Instead it is now collaborative and multidisciplinary, and the opportunity to connect knowledge and ideas in this way stems from the concept of the network.

As information becomes increasingly open, we see post-filtering (i.e. a publish then filter model) rather than pre-filtering (the traditional gatekeeping role played by publishers). This ensures that false negatives (good content which should be published but isn't) are minimised, even if large volumes of seemingly valueless content are also published. In the same way that Clay Johnson suggests responsibility lies with the individual user to consume a healthy 'information diet', Weinberger invokes Clay Shirky's "filter failure" - the idea that we need to develop better and more efficient means of filtering information. Logical stopping points like the authoritative print reference sources of old are harder to see online, but are there nonetheless. Indeed Weinberger's pragmatism brings an awareness that in most cases we utilise information like any other product - as a means to an end - in short, "knowledge is not a library but a playlist tuned to our present interests."

Weinberger also offers an interesting critique of The Shallows by Nicholas Carr and the premise that the internet is negatively influencing our information behaviour by encouraging scanning - ultimately making us lose sight of our higher order thinking skills. Conversely, printed books promote engagement with the longer thought and stimulate creativity and critical thinking. Weinberger respectfully questions this notion however, arguing instead that books are narrow sources of information limited by their form and design - the need for a beginning, middle and an end, all of which must generally avoid digression due to physical constraints. These attributes are not required with electronic publishing, and surely the opportunities presented by richer multi-layered arguments, collaboration and instant feedback are a good thing? Furthermore, accepting the new open ecology of information as a given automatically places a greater emphasis on the need for critical thinking and appraisal, including a responsibility on individuals to fully reflect on and assess the information they find. I would certainly like to think this is true and will be borne out over time, however whether it is over-optimistic remains to be seen. Myself and Mr Weinberger have our fingers crossed.

*Weinberger, D. (2005) Tagging and Why it Matters. Retrieved 27/03/2012 from http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/sites/cyber.law.harvard.edu/files/07-WhyTaggingMatters.pdf

24 Mar 2012

Optimising your website for discovery: On-page SEO

Web publishing and social marketing is now a routine aspect of many librarians’ jobs. Whilst librarians may be pretty adept at ensuring other people’s research and information is visible and easily accessible, I sometimes wonder if we occasionally forget about the electronic content we publish ourselves. My guess is that library blogs, websites and other online resources (subject portals etc.) often receive very little attention in terms of search engine optimisation (SEO). However, these techniques and tools can be a valuable way to increase the visibility of the content you publish to people who typically use search engines such as Google as their main access point. This post is part of a three part series, which firstly looks at some on-page techniques of SEO.

Thoughts on web publishing #1 (The basics)
On-page techniques for content marketing

On-page techniques essentially comprise ‘stuff you can do with your site’ to help search engines (and consequently people) find your information more easily. This ‘stuff’ might mean metadata you can include with your content, structuring your data more efficiently so it is easier for search engines to crawl, or creating valuable content which helps to drive traffic. As these are elements that you have control over, it is important to make sure you have the basics covered.

Include a relevant title tag and meta keywords in the head of all your pages

Make sure to include the title element in the head of your page. It should ideally contain the key phrase you want to target. The tab at the top of your browser window displays the title element from an end-user point of view. You will notice for blog posts (including this blog!) the page title usually incorporates the blog post title, that’s why it is important to think about which words and phrases you use when you title your blog posts. Meta keywords and description tags no longer tend to be a factor in many ranking algorithms, but the meta description tag can be used as the content snippet when your page appears in search engine results (SERPs) so it's worthwhile including it to encourage click-throughs to your site.

Focus on one key phrase per page (e.g. in the case of this post, on-page SEO) rather than lots of different keywords and topics on the one page (analytics, webmaster tools, linking etc.) which will dilute the strength of your key phrase or concept. The medical librarian in me likes to think of this in MeSH terms: decide on one term as a major concept for each page, rather than lots of different headings. Use this keyword in your title element and URL as well if possible.

Rich snippets

You have probably seen rich snippets hundreds of times, even if you don’t know it yet. Rich snippets are the lines of text and other information that appear under search results, and are designed to give users a sense of why each particular result may be relevant to their query. So having a rich snippet of your content allows your target users to quickly discern that your site is valuable to them. To help Google understand the content of your page and pick up on the elements to include as a rich snippet, you can add HTML to your content using microdata, microformats or RDF (see this excellent intro to RDF for librarians by Jenn Riley).

Google supports rich snippets for:
* Reviews;
* People;
* Products;
* Businesses & organisations;
* Recipes;
* Events;
* Music; and also recognises the mark-up for video content.

SEOMoz has a really useful infographic on rich snippets

You can also use Google’s rich snippets testing tool to check your site.

Site speed

Improving the speed of your website can also influence your ranking in SERPs as site speed is one of the signals which Google incorporates in its algorithms. You can use the Page Speed browser add-on to monitor and improve your site’s performance. Page Speed will compress images, minify Javascript and remove unused CSS to help make your pages faster. Leveraging browser caching can also help reduce loading times, for example it's better to combine all your CSS into an external file linked to from the head of your page which can be cached, instead of loading it in the body HTML of each individual page.

Fresh content

Well-structured, high-quality and regularly updated content is also important. Content fuels a lot of organic (i.e. non-paid for) search traffic, and strong content will also support the off-site and social marketing elements in your overall SEO strategy (see part two in this series for more on this aspect). Content is also what makes your site valuable and interesting to users, so producing unique content is essential for lots of reasons.

Generating a site map page

A site map will help search engine spiders to find and crawl all the important pages and content on your site. If they can’t find it, they can’t index it! You can use some handy third party applications to generate one (like http:/www.web-site-map.com/ or http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/, or a Wordpress plugin) and add it to your Google Webmaster Tools account.

That’s a quick summary of some on-page techniques for increasing your ranking in SERPs. In part two I’ll be taking a look at what really matters in content-marketing: off-site aspects of SEO.

22 Mar 2012

Accommodating Specific Learning Difficulties in Third Level Education

Guest post by Carol Clifford

Lorraine Gallagher, Information & Training Officer for AHEAD, dropped in recently and offered an insight into the condition of students with disabilities in Higher Education in Ireland. The Association of Higher Education Access & Disability was founded in 1988 by a UCD student who was blind. Today it is an NGO and provides information, lobbies for change and operates a learning network.

Below is a summary of the day’s training session, written by Carol Clifford who also organised this event.

Lorraine talked about dyslexia and the challenges it brings to students. She outlined strategies for lecturers, exams staff, learning support and the disabilities support service to help remove any barriers to learning.

Students with Disabilities in Higher Education
The numbers of students with disabilities participating in Higher Education are growing dramatically. However, it is unclear whether this is due to increasing numbers of students accessing education programmes, or that disabilities and learning difficulties are diagnosed more often than previously:

1994 = 461 Students with Disabilities
1999 = 1,367 Students with Disabilities
2003 = 2000 Students with Disabilities
2010/2011 = 6,932 Students with Disabilities

The Types of Disability in Higher Education Institutions
Specific learning difficulty = 60%
Physical or mobility related disability = 7%
Blind or visually impaired = 2%
Deaf or hard of hearing = 3%
Mental health difficulty = 9%
Asperger’s Syndrome = 2%
ADHD or ADD = 2%
Significant ongoing illness = 10%
Other = 3%

The factors responsible for an increase in the number of students with disabilities accessing Higher Education are thought to be:
  • International and Government Policy
  • Legislation
  • Policy changes in colleges
  • Improved physical and learning access
  • Support infrastructures
  • Positive impact of the ESF Fund
  • People with disabilities- sense of profound injustice
  • Demographic trends
  • Word of mouth amongst students
AHEAD consider an accessible education environment to be one without barriers for people who want to use it. Potential barriers include the nature of the subject (abstract concepts for example), the nature of the teaching (all chalk and talk vs. interaction and group work), attitudes and expectations as well as the physical environment (lifts, disabled toilets etc.).

Professor Peter Pumfrey articulates the strategic challenge as follows:
‘We must re-examine the normal learning environments so that they do not exclude talented students who cannot learn the way we teach.  The challenge is to teach the way the student can learn.’

The legislation outlining HEIs obligations to students with disabilities is fairly vague. An educational establishment will discriminate against a student with disability if they do not do all that is reasonable to accommodate that student.  A needs assessment must be carried out. Then reasonable accommodation must be provided.

Students with Dyslexia
Dyslexia comes from the Greek meaning ‘difficulty with words’. It is an information-processing difficulty and a language difficulty in which tiny differences in brain organisation lead to problems in handling verbal codes or symbols. There is no doubt that dyslexia exists as the brain scans of people with dyslexia differ from brain scans of those without dyslexia. It is a permanent condition which needs continuous support.

A person with dyslexia struggles to translate written symbols into speech (reading), has difficulty in putting spoken words into written symbols (spelling). They have short term memory issues and may not be able to repeat back to you something that you have just told them. Musical notation and numeracy may also be affected.

Below is an example how a student with dyslexia reads:
Wreeding in this weigh menes yoo mussed lonsentrait on sownding out eech werd sow ot wood bb difecult too komprehende.

Dyslexia tends to run in families. A gene called DCDC2 “may disrupt the formal formation of brain circuits that are necessary for fluent reading, leading to dyslexia”. It affects about 3 times as many boys as girls and occurs at all levels of intellectual ability. Dyslexia is not the result of a lack of motivation, emotional disturbance, sensory impairment or meagre opportunities.

The type of dyslexia and the extent of the problem experienced by a student with dyslexia can vary greatly from person to person. The difficulties experienced may occur with reading, writing, spelling, writing numbers, short term memory, spoken language, personal organisation. The work of a student with dyslexia may have some of the following characteristics:
  • Spelling errors (despite using a spellchecker)
  • Sentences may be rambling and take a while to get to the point
  • Word endings may be omitted
  • Words like the, and, or may be omitted
  • Repetition of words and ideas
  • Lack a clear structure
  • Using the incorrect tense
  • Excessive or misplaced punctuation
  • Simplified vocabulary (in order to avoid spelling mistakes)
  • Unsophisticated language structures (to avoid grammar mistakes, this does not denote unsophisticated thinking)
Individuals with dyslexia may also exhibit some of the following strengths:
  • Creativity
  • Lateral thinking
  • Problem solving skills
  • Ability in art, design, architecture and computing
Teaching Strategies
No two students will present with the exact same learning difficulties. A needs assessment is necessary to gain an understanding of the student’s individual difficulties and learning style. Lecturers teaching students with dyslexia can help the student by:
  • Clearly structuring classes. Introduce the lecture with an outline and key points. This allows the student to see the whole picture before seeing the different parts.
  • Provide notes in advance.
  • Spell new words on the board.
  • Provide a list of technical terms
  • Prioritise reading lists. Tell students which books are the key texts and which chapters of books are the most relevant.
  • Use mind maps.
  • Provide models of work e.g. assignments, reports, templates.
  • Break projects down into manageable chunks.
  • Separate carrier language from technical content, ideas and language, mark both separately.
  • Provide constructive feedback.
  • Encourage use of spell checkers, tape recorders.
  • Minimise the number of key points a student has to remember, sequence the items clearly.
  • Work with students on finding memory strategies or triggers that are effective for them (e.g. visual cues).
  • Try teaching in chunks.
  • Encourage students to consider using cue cards, for example when they are giving presentations. (PowerPoint was invented by someone with dyslexia.)
  • Provide step-by-step instructions.
  • Emphasize over-learning to help get learning into long-term memory.
Multi-sensory approaches in teaching can make the classes more accessible to students with dyslexia. Visual images (colours and mind maps), sound, (music), performance (role play), games and activities and computers all play into this.

Exam supports for students with dyslexia can include:
  • Extra time
  • A user friendly exam paper – carrier language is clear in the exam questions
  • Use of a reader and / or scribe
  • A spelling & grammar waiver
  • A private room
  • Oral testing
  • Reduce copying tasks
Assistive Technology for individuals with dyslexia
  • Voice recognition software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking allows students to dictate their work while the software converts it to a written text.
  • Read aloud software such as Read and Write Gold reads on screen texts to the student.
  • The Life Scribe recording pen records a lecture and links the speech to the notes written with the pen. Point the pen at your note and the pen will replay what was spoken at this time.
  • Free Mind is mind mapping software.
Learning Support
  • Reading techniques
  • Literacy supports
  • Study skills
    • essay writing
    • examination  preparation
  • Note-taking
  • Memory techniques, roman room, mind-mapping
  • Essay writing
  • Time management
  • Examination provision
The aim in accommodating disability is to teach the student to become an independent learner. We don’t take away the challenge we support them through the challenges. Dyslexia shouldn’t hold people back as many high achievers with dyslexia demonstrate. Examples inlcude Leonardo da Vinci, John F. Kennedy, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Tommy Hilfiger, Mohammad Ali...

19 Mar 2012

Digital content: Are we lost without spatial navigation?

The Problem With the Web and E-Books Is That There’s No Space for Them, according to Mark Changizi. Changizi argues that prior to the emergence of the internet and ebooks, our information storage and retrieval mechanisms were primarily spatial in nature and could be physically navigated. That is, to locate a specific piece of information, for example population statistics, you would use your own existing knowledge and visual cues to remember where the relevant information was and to locate it: the census reports located on the bottom shelf in your office, with familiar paragraph structures and blocks of text to act as cues for navigating to the right information quickly. Essentially Changzi believes this type of spatial navigation process harnesses our brains' natural capabilities, but crucially depends on "fixed spatial placement within the book and on the page" - something which, in his view, web and ebook content generally lacks. Similar spatial cues don't exist when you try to find information online for example. Many people don't remember URLs, often they may even be subject to frequent change, and they aren't arranged in a spatial way like shelves in a library. Instead you typically use a search engine to find what you want.

Is finding digital content really that counter-intuitive?
I am not so sure about this. To me it seems pretty inefficient to always navigate information spatially in this way compared to the full text searching capabilities offered by digital content. Is "spatial navigability" really so essential? And does online and electronic content fundamentally change the information search process at such a basic level? I am no cognitive scientist but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that people's information behaviour is changing, and this is not necessarily a 'bad' thing. Kuhlthau's Information Search Process model is also a useful reference point here. Kulthau's research shows that the ISP Model (a constructive sense-making model of the stages involved in the information seeking process) applies as much in the digital environment as it does in the printed world (Kuhlthau, Heinström and Todd, 2008).

Digital publishing can offer added value compared to fixed spatial placement
Navigating information spatially in print may have made sense when this was the only option. Take an atlas for example: the idea of representing the world on a series of static, fixed, 9" X 12" printed pages bound together may have been a useful way of locating places when this was the best we had. However does it make sense to continue doing so, just because your brain might be used to the visual and spatial cues included in a printed atlas, when we have Google maps - an undoubtedly far more suitable way of storing and navigating geographic information? It is hard to imagine that the answer is yes.

Kuhlthau, C.C., Heinström, J. and Todd, R.J. 2008. "The 'information search process' revisited: is the model still useful?" Information Research, 13(4) paper 355. [Online] Available: http://informationr.net/ir/13-4/paper355.html

14 Mar 2012

What does teaching look like?

I love this Pinterest page "What does learning look like?" as I think it encapsulates how authentic and meaningful learning takes place, and the important role that context plays in acquiring skills and contructing new knowledge. The most valuable learning often takes place informally or when people don't realise they are 'learning' as such - just like most of the examples on Pinterest. Recently I have been wondering what a "What does teaching look like?" Pinterest page might illustrate. To me*, teaching looks like:

instructional scaffolding
a process which is meaningful to each individual learner
context and relevance
integrated and embedded delivery
content and information which is logically sequenced to support connections and linkages
learning needs, objectives, outcomes and assessments which are constructively aligned
structure and clarity
interaction and engagement
group learning so participants can learn from each other
instructional design which is evaluated and revised based on feedback and assessment outcomes
recognition of differences in learning styles
reflective practice



*Disclaimer: I sleep with a copy of John Biggs' Teaching for Quality Learning at University under my pillow
Posted on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 | Categories: ,

13 Mar 2012

Guest post: vizualize.me

Guest post by Amye Quigley

As we all know it’s difficult to find a permanent job at the moment in the library world. I don’t know about you, but I spend quite a lot of time catering my curriculum vitae to each and every job I apply for. I also spend quite a lot of time looking for suggestions on how to make it stand out from the crowd. This is how I came across a really nice infographic tool - vizualize.me - which translates your curriculum vitae details from Linkedin into a visual representation – for example:

Eugene Woo's visualised online CV
Once you have exported your details from Linkedin, you can then edit them and then choose the theme to suit you. You can choose the infographic theme from six current options and then choose a colour scheme to go with it. There are currently options to allow you to embed a link in a website, and share your infographic on social networking sites. There will be an option to export the graphic CV to PDF and print it, but this is not available at the moment.

Vizualize.me is not the only one fostering the visual curriculum vitae idea. I have just recently come across a second infographic tool, re.vu which seems to do a similar thing. A visual representation of your career and educational history has obvious appeal to those in the graphic and design field but I do think library and information professionals could benefit from using this as an add-on to their professional online presence. It’s an interesting way to be able to show where your experience comes in a chronological order but without it being a typically boring resume.

9 Mar 2012

LIS career development group RSS portal

http://www.netvibes.com/lisireland is a new Netvibes RSS portal which has been compiled by Giada Gelli from the LIS Career Development Ireland group. LisIreland includes feeds from Irish public, academic & special libraries, general library blogs & journals, and specialist resources for cataloguing, information literacy, health sciences and law.

The portal is still a work in progress and more feeds from LIS blogs, journals and news sources will be added over time based on input from members. Thanks to Giada for the hard work involved in putting together this very useful resource.

7 Mar 2012

Guest post: Library Internships, what’s the story?

Guest post by Caroline Montgomery

About Caroline:
Caroline finished her MLIS in 2009 and then went on to spend a year working in libraries in Sydney, Australia, since returning she has spent her time volunteering and gaining further work experience in libraries and archives while searching for more permanent work. She is currently enrolled in a Job Bridge Internship at Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT), which she writes about here, and is soon to take up a paid internship at The National Library of Ireland. Her interests include, Information Skills training, Social Media in Libraries and research and reference work.

Since August 2011, many people have been taking up Job Bridge internships across the country in a variety of disciplines. It was announced last week that 5,000 of these internships have now been filled. The scheme has been greeted with mixed reaction; some see it in a positive light as a stepping stone for recent graduates who wish to gain experience in their field while others have used terms such as ‘exploitation’ and ‘free labour’ to describe what they see as companies getting qualified workers for free, but what does all this have to do with Libraries?

I am an MLIS graduate currently enrolled in a Job Bridge internship at The Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) Library since September 2011. This is my account of the work I have been doing there and how I have found the experience.  If you have recently graduated from an MLIS, GradDip-Lis, MSc LIS or similar and are finding it difficult to find Library work in the current job market then you may also be considering taking on an internship. While I am offering no strong opinions either way on the Government’s Internship scheme on the whole I will say that, for me personally, this has been a worthwhile experience and my advice to recent LIS graduates thinking of starting an internship would be to go for it.

Before the Job Bridge scheme was introduced this position was available for several years as a FÁS Work Placement Programme (WPP) so there is a well established history in DkIT Library of interns coming and going over the years, many of whom I understand have subsequently gone on to find employment in Libraries elsewhere. Essentially the work I’m doing is that of a Library Assistant or a Librarian of a Grade 1 to 3. All staff share shelving duties and shifts at the Issue desk so I have had as much responsibility in frontline services such as these as any other member of staff. 

In the beginning I briefly shadowed every member of staff individually to learn a little about the variety of work that each person here does.  Gradually I found the areas that most interested me and was encouraged to take on more projects and tasks in these areas. I am sometimes given specific projects to work on but I’m also encouraged to work on my own initiative taking on work as I see there is demand for it. I have attended staff meetings which I have found a great learning experience for seeing how decisions regarding the running of the Library are made. I have made suggestions at meetings which I was then asked to follow up on and see through, for example, I suggested the Library have its own YouTube channel for the purpose of hosting Information Skills video tutorials for students and subsequently set this up. I made simple videos using Screecast-omatic to demonstrate searching the OPAC, requesting a book, placing a hold and using the Ebrary collection. All in all I feel I have been treated as just another member of the team and that my ideas and opinions hold as much weight as would any other employee.

Other projects I have worked on have included, designing and administering a student survey regarding late opening hours and analysing the results, doing small research projects and writing reports, analysing statistics i.e statistics of overdue loans, statistics of journal usage and inter-Library loans etc, compiling and editing a catalogue of artwork in the Library and organising and promoting student events in the Library. 

I have worked in Libraries before so this is not my first experience of Library work however this has been an opportunity to develop my skills in areas that I have not worked in before.  Most of my experience is in Public Libraries apart from a short six week work experience which I undertook at Dublin Business School (DBS) so I am enjoying working in an Academic Library and dealing with students. It has been an opportunity to learn more about acquisitions, databases, journal subscriptions and corresponding with lecturers regarding reading lists etc.  I became involved in the Marketing Team which involves coming up with ideas for Library events, arranging these events and promoting them throughout the college and outside. I didn’t go into this internship with the intention of gaining experience in Marketing or Events Management as they are not something I would necessarily associate with Librarianship and yet I have and in fact this has become my favourite part of the job. I’m now working on writing Press Releases for local papers to let the wider community know about some of the recent activities and services which the Library has been providing to students. 

My advice with internships would be that you get out of it what you put in, so make the most of it and take on as many projects as you can to build on your own experience. If you are an LIS graduate and looking for work, an internship like this could be a great way to get started in your Library career. Equally, if you are an experienced Librarian who is currently between jobs, an internship could be a good way to upskill while you look for more permanent work. That at least, is what it has been for me.  

2 Mar 2012

Academic & Special Libraries Section Annual Seminar – a critical review of keynote speaker, Ken Chad

Last Friday I had the joy of attending the Academic & Special Libraries Section annual seminar at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Dublin. The programme was varied, covering a range of topics that currently concern the academic library.

Keynote speaker was consultant Ken Chad, who focused on library strategic decision making during ‘relentless, disruptive, technology-driven change and tough economic times’. While his presentation highlighted the accepted view that libraries must occupy what he calls a ‘strategic sweet spot’ (their own unique niche) he makes a number of important points about making a business focus work. 

What I liked about Ken’s presentation was his insistence that any library is only as good as its strategy and resulting implementation of the same. He rightly pointed out that the strategy building process must be very carefully considered. Strategic thinking includes critical reflection of operational context (what’s going on, internal/external threats, opportunities) and checking up on the competition (who are our competitors and what are they up to?). Most importantly, library users must be considered – who are they, what do they expect?

Interestingly, Ken repeatedly insisted that librarians should not analyse needs but look at what ‘jobs’ people want done. His idea is that students are customers. They expect an efficient library service that empowers them to get a given job done, with as little input as possible. This may well be true (I know from first-hand experience). However, I only somewhat agree with this jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) approach. Getting the job done is the natural outcome of utilising the unique resources and services libraries offer. But insisting on too narrow a focus implies that libraries should cut out all the other (equally important) stuff that might distract from this goal. I’m not entirely sure what Ken actually meant specifically here as he did not provide contextual examples of academic library services that stand in the way of JTBD.

Essentially, libraries are in the business of education, not in the business for business’s sake. They help create information-savvy individuals, who can navigate the spectrum of information that surrounds us. Library services empower users to navigate information-related situations successfully. Academic libraries are about enhancing learning and experience. Being aware of those unique learning needs and desires is as important as getting the job done. Those needs must be recognised, communicated and dealt with. They do not ‘distract’ students from their mission of getting a particular job done. Identifying needs in conjunction with getting the job done empowers students to get jobs done the smart way.

Members of the audience addressed this issue; someone pointed towards the danger of turning a student’s interaction with the library into a retail-type experience. Even though Ken acknowledged these observations, his key message was the insistence that libraries are businesses and must focus on jobs to be done (see segmentation & the jobs to be done theory for detail). But is it right to encourage this approach exclusively? Does switching to a business strategy focus in libraries really offer value for library users? What about education for education’s sake. Comprehensive library services and resources add value to JBTD. Libraries are businesses within reason, but the purpose of education is to provide an inclusive and comprehensive experience to all library users.

Finally, Ken contended that appreciating and being aware of your library’s existing capabilities is crucial. What is it that we do uniquely better than anyone else? Those things must be emphasised and delivered consistently. Further, the things that work should be developed consistently in a sensible and sustainable manner.

Later in the morning, people from UCD presented their take on supporting students through the use of electronic media via YouTube. The idea here is to promote UCD library services and provide online support for users through online videos and tutorials. Given that YouTube is a popular channel, it makes sense that libraries exploit this form of communication with their user base.

The afternoon was spent looking at different Discovery tools including Primo (Ex Libris) used by NUI Galway, Summon (Serial Solutions) used by the Institute of Technology Carlow, Encore Synergy 4.1 used by Trinity College Dublin, and EBSCO’s Discovery Service used by Leeds Metropolitan University. Presenters spoke of their experience of implementing and maintaining these services. That was good stuff.

Overall, the day was stimulating and a rewarding experience. It’s always enlightening to hear the expectations and opinions fellow librarians have. Here’s to getting the job done!

The libfocus mixtape - #1

| noun \ˈlib-ˌfō-kəs ˈmiks-ˌtāp\ : a round-up of recent journals, blogs, websites, books and news worth reading


1. Reskilling for research. An investigation into the role and skills of subject and liaison librarians required to effectively support the evolving information needs of researchers
At 115 pages it is one for sending to the ereader rather than the printer. If that still sounds too much, there is always the executive summary. Still too long? Try this: “the support and services research libraries are charged with providing will have to be clearly articulated and their benefits expressed in terms of researchers' needs and how these will be met actively, they will have to be delivered within a timeframe that corresponds to researchers' patterns of work, and they will have to be vigorously and assertively promoted.”

A detailed dissection of the blogger @FakeElsevier’s take on the recent boycott. I do like the analogy of scholarly publishers as midwives.

I think ereaders offer great potential for selling shorter pieces individually, particularly for non-fiction. Printing and distribution costs obviously make this idea unworkable in print. However, I was hoping to see new content rather than previously published Economist articles.

The new ‘Current Reports’ journals will focus on dermatology, geriatrics/gerontology, nutrition, obesity, obstetrics/gynecology and respiratory care.

Abstract: Every major health profession now provides competency statements for preparing new members for their respective professions. These competency statements normally include expectations for training health professions students in library/informatics skills. For purposes of this article, searches were conducted using various sources to produce a comprehensive 32-page Compendium <https://repository.unm.edu/handle/1928/15363> that inventories library/informatics-related competency statements. This compendium should aid readers in integrating their library/informatics skills training into various health professions education curricula.

6. The librarian in the cloud: or beware of unintended consequences. J Med Libr Assoc. 2011 October; 99(4): 267–269. 
A worrying proposition by Dr Susan Starr: “As my own former campus has found, while users value embedded librarians, they are loath to pay for them. Unlike the physical library of old, which served as a visible representation of the quality of the university, these targeted programs are easily viewed as nonessential by those who control our funding.”

A forthcoming book published by Chandos presents the idea that information literacy, reconceived as ‘research processes’ “becomes the domain of teaching faculty, with the assistance of librarians. The goal is to transform education from a primarily one-way knowledge communication practice to an interactive practice involving the core research tasks of the subject disciplines.”
A concise and cogent take on what librarians are ‘really’ teaching in terms of information literacy. Barbara Fister argues that increasingly we are seeing a reductivist approach where we instruct students “to do what comes easily” (scholarly journals > newspaper & magazines, rather than evaluating each individual article on its own merits) . Fister believes “We assume information is sought and that judgments can be made based on visible signals embedded in a source. As the information landscape changes, as definitions of authority and reputation change, as we move into a world where publishing will be fundamentally different, we need to rethink what we talk about when we talk about information literacy.”