Monday, August 29, 2011

When Google gets it wrong

Today, I couldn't be bothered to dig into my bookmarks and find the link for the online version of the magazine of JLSS - The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland.
So I asked Google to find me it, by cunningly searching for the terms "JLSS" and "magazine". I'd say that's a pretty clear search: two words, both of which are correct.

But no: Google knows better.

I'm not actually wanting to look at a recent article on Agency Worker Regulations.
Actually, what Google knows I'm really looking for is sites about JLS, the boy band.

Obviously, me putting in the actual words that I want to look for just isn't accurate enough, as after being presented with a screen of nonsense about disturbingly flexible young boys in tight t-shirts, I then have to click again to correct the search. Which actually was correct when I originally input it.

Google, I am NOT thick, and I do NOT want to have to see JLS!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What Dumpling learned today, #4

"Salmon principles" are actually the six cardinal principles used to protect persons whose reputations might be affected by a tribunal of inquiry.

They do not, in fact, refer to a certain type of fish having a strong moral fibre.

The Phantom Booker returns

Image source
And the fabulous but mysterious maker of lovely book sculptures strikes again, gifting the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the city with two new sculptures, left carefully at the Book Festival venue in Charlotte Square.
The previous possible link to Ian Rankin seems to have disappeared, with new authors books being used, but they're just as inventive and fun as before!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The 14th Thing - cite unseen

Uh-oh, Thing 14's going to be another one of those ones that I'm not really going to be investigating. Not because I'm lazy, but because it's just not relevant in my current workplace: the only sort of citations we're bothered about here are the legal ones. In fact, the ones we're mainly concerned about here are the incorrect legal citations, and the time we have to waste trying to figure out the correct ones. Top news: advocates don't actually always double check their case references...who knew!

I'm trying hard to think of a good reason for me to spend time poking about on Thing 14's suggested tools, but the last time I had to properly cite a bibliographic reference would have been at least 10 years ago. It's not a skill I feel that I need to have in my current role. We don't have users that need to cite material in an academic form, not do we need to support this sort of academic work.

If I do ever end up being thrown out of legal libraries and into the Big Bad World, and end trying to move into work in academic libraries, those tools will be either gone, or available in newer, updated versions. Therefore, it would be better for me to spend the time on learning about them when I need to and they could be useful, rather than now when it's just taking up time that I could be spending on other activities.

Perhaps when I start my open University course in November I'll return to look at these tools, as I may be required to cite materials, but I imagine as it's an online course, a lot of the questions I may have on producing materials for the course will be answered with the accompanying handouts, or in the online support areas.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tiny book prizewinner

So, after a strict judging process (i.e. I collated the entries, and asked some workmates which one made them laugh the most), the winner of the tiny book was....................the final entry by Daniel .
His reasoning was:

I want the History of Apples:
Because I have lost the manual for my Ipod Mini and assume this small book about Apples will cover the same ground.
So Daniel, please get in touch via the email address on the right, and I'll get the book and its bottle posted off to you soon :)

And the others all provoked giggles from those who read them too...and lots from me. Thank you for the amusement, peoples! :D

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

An old fashioned habit

I like handwriting.
I was informed by my Dad at an early age that an inability to write in a straight line without having a lined page to guide you was the sign of a Weak Mind.*
I can write in a straight line without having a lined page to guide me.
I can write in multiple sizes (1mm high is my favourite).
I struggle to write continuously in capitals when official forms require it (lower case is my natural habit).
I have nice, readable handwriting.
I write to people, because it's nice to get a letter.
I keep every letter or postcard ever sent to me.
I make interesting line images using words.
I wrote all my University notes by hand...with bonus illustrations, when I was bored.
I keep to-do lists in my handbag, and delight in carefully scoring out things when they're done.

So...writing: is fun, even though I barely do it for the bulk of my time - in my daily life, typing is King!

But I find that writing's actually the best way that I learn: the physical act of writing transfers the information that I've read or heard into my brain, and it stays there. Typing the same information means it travels from my fingers, to a document...and leaves my brain.

I think there's a few reasons for this.

I was never taught to type, or touch type. When ahh were a were either expected to go to university (and would therefore come out Fully Qualified in Excellence, and leap straight into a job where you'd have staff/minions to do typing for you...because that's what a degree means, doesn't it?), or you were going to be a secretary, therefore you did OIS (Office and Information Skills - there's a misnomer!) where you learned to type. I was in the first group: ohhh, get me, expected to go to university, likely to have minions to do my typing, woo-hoo!

In reality, what happened was - I taught myself to touch type up to a point using a programme on a BBC Micro at home while in late Primary school/early Secondary school, and it was enough to get me by, including for Computing Studies (also using a BBC Micro - damn that Other Class who got to use the brand spanking new pcs!). Then, I went to first year, handwritten assignments were the second year, there were guidelines on spacings for word processed third year, ALL documents had to be word processed. It was a rapid switch, and not one I (or many others) was totally prepared for.

So, I'm now a reasonably fast typer...but not properly. I've learned to get along using about 8 fingers, but almost certainly not in the right way (judging from how my fingers/knuckles can hurt at the end of the day). I still need regular glances down at the keyboard, I make plenty of typos (my favourites are "nihgt" and "hte", with spacings between words being too earl yor too lat e.), and need to correct frequently. It's too late really to fix that - I'd need to unlearn how to type wrongly in order to learn to type correctly and in my job, I need to type constantly.
So, typing: I can do it, but I'm partially thinking about typing when I do it, rather than focussing on the content of what I'm typing.

Writing's different - I know the shapes of the letters so well that I don't need to think about them, and I'm pretty good on spelling so I don't really need to think about that either. So when I hand write something, particularly if it's the points being made by a speaker, I listen, distil to the core point (if needed), write that point down as a note, and remember the information. I can also go back to my notes later, and they'll really only be needed to refresh my memory, rather than have to be read and understood all over again.

People used to borrow my lecture notes at university, because they were clear, readable, and easy to understand and get the gist of the lecture. Unfortunately, this didn't always work the other way round - I had a hard time trying to make sense of some other peoples lecture notes if I missed a class! I'd also work far better by transcribing points into notes, rather than photocopying the original material when I was studying. It's just a shame that I get The Fear when in exams, and all useful information evaporates from my head!

So, I'm not being awkwardly old fashioned on purpose with my avoidance of using any technical devices to make conference or meeting notes - the iPad, iPhone tablets, smartphones etc may work well for other people, but if you see me at a conference or seminar, I'll be the one sitting there with a pad of paper and a pretty pen, quietly scribbling away.

Does anyone else have this issue with not retaining information if you type it, but being fine if you hand write it? Or are technical devices the way forward for you?

*Please note: my Dad is 72, and had his own natural lefthandedness beaten out of him by vicious teachers in a 1940s schoolroom, leaving him semi-ambidextrous. He may not be the best judge of what is an appropriate way to write.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Unlucky Thirteen - the Thing of collaborative working

Apparently, collaboration is not just a thing that it is naughty to do with the enemy during a war. It is also a Good Thing too. There are many collaborative tools, and Thing 13 asks us to take a look at one or more of their suggested tools: Google Docs, Wikis, and Dropbox.

Now, I've looked at Google Docs in passing before, or when someone's pointed me towards a document they'd like some input on that's being hosted there. To be honest, I've not seen much use for it for me currently - my role does not often need that sort of mass-input to create single documents, or to share them widely. Same for Dropbox - I've not had much need to put a document somewhere that people can later download it from. If I want to work on a document at home, I can access my computer remotely, or email it to my personal email address. So, neither of these two resources currently do much for me, as my work needs don't call for much in the way of document collaboration..

Wikis, I'm much keener on! I've used wikis in many ways:

  • One for hosting my Chartership materials and allowing my mentor to access and review them at her leisure.
  • One that my boss and I use as a Library staff duties handbook, and backup reference resource for supplier contacts and other non-sensitive information.
  • One for the SLLG Committee, to host core group materials and essential information for the development and running of the groups activities.
  • One for Bethan Ruddock and I to work privately on our revalidation materials together.
  • One for public viewing, which replicates the revalidation wiki, with sensitive personal information edited out.

These have all worked well for me, as they were or are being used for more than just working on creating documentation, but actively for discussions, and creating and maintaining a database of relevant information for current and future users.
They're designed to be more long-term and regularly evolving, whereas I see Google Doc and Dropbox as resources that are used while things are in progress (Google Docs) or when complete (Dropbox). Wikis are more useful for regular, ongoing activities, and to hold reference materials, and for these reasons they're more useful resources for me than the other collaborative tools.

Thing 12 - social media and networks

Ok, Thing 12 is looking at "the role of social media in building up networks and a sense of community." Now, I've got to say, I do love me a good social network. I've been a user of MySpace (back when it was actually cool), then moved on to Bebo, and finally, in the last two or three years, I've settled in to Facebook, and Twitter (with the obligatory LinkedIn presence, but I don't count that as part of my part of my active social network), with a steady background of blogs.

The main benefit that I've gained from social media is using it to help me get to know so many professionals outside my own sphere. Scots law librarians are a small group, and our concerns are specific to the materials and data we have to work with. They can overlap when we work with UK issues, but otherwise, we're focussed on what we need to do to deal with our own needs. Making contact with non-Scots law professionals, and regularly interacting with them has led to me making some great friendships with people who I'd never otherwise have met (and in some cases, I've still to actually get to meet in person). When I've sent out a cry for help for information on some specialist resource, or unusual materials, these contacts have been able to help me out. Without the funding to go to legal information professional events, I couldn't have made those contacts in my sector. And I don't see how, at any other point, I'd have been able to get to know academic or school librarians - our worlds just don't overlap at all in any other way. It's led to me regularly working virtually with Bethan Ruddock on our co-mentoring wiki, and I've only managed to meet her in real life once so far!

I've also benefited from online legal professional friends posting links to materials useful for my work - I often click on legal news links posted by others. They act as a sort of filter: picking up information, assessing it, and passing on the good stuff. In this way, I've found new news sources for my work, and kept myself abreast of the hot topics in various legal sectors - which is helpful, as I never know what I'm going to be asked to investigate next, and having a good general awareness of legal issues puts me one step ahead when I'm asked to research things.

I do try and be careful with my use of social media though - I have certain rules for certain sites. For example, on Facebook, I only allow ex-staff to add me - it's my personal space, and that doesn't overlap with work. I don't share any real identifying data (birthplace, birth date, Uni, workplace, location etc) or any particularly personal things in status updates or comments - it's for light entertainment only. On Twitter, I don't allow workmates to follow me (nor do I follow them), I don't use my real name or the name of the place I work, and if I share any information about what I'm doing (such as an interesting/unusual/frustrating research enquiry) I don't name the person asking, or usually, even their gender. To the outside world, I may well appear to work in an odd place that's staffed entirely by hermaphrodites. This may or may not be an accurate assumption.

I also don't like any particular company to have too much access to my personal data - this is why I won't open a Google+ account (as it would force me to use my real name) and why I immediately deleted Google Wave/Buzz/WhateverItWas when it launched, as it made me use my real name too. I can't forget that Google's an advertising company, and whatever it's giving me for free (an email account, a blog, access to its new toy), I pay for by forfeiting some of my data privacy.

But in general... yeah, social media: I loves it, I does!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thingee eleventyone - mentals, and mentaling

It's time to talk about mentals (or mentors, if we're being awffy formal).

I've been mentored a-plenty, both formally and informally, and now I'm even starting to do a little bit of the mentoring stuff myself. So how has it all worked out for me?

The unofficial mentors
In my previous workplace, I worked as part of a team of five staff in an institutional members-only law library, and effectively had a substantial period of apprenticeship to my boss, who spent at least a year supervising the VERY steep learning curve I had to go on. It was mainly her who ended up being the person showing me where things were kept; explaining how those things related to each other; how she'd figured out where an answer might be found for an enquiry we'd received; introducing me to other legal information professionals; and answering the many random and stupid questions I came up with. She also encouraged me to be active in both CILIP, and the group representing Scottish legal information professionals, the Scottish Law Librarians Group. I learned a helluva lot in my years there, mainly through the patient guidance of my boss, and I feel lucky that I had the chance to work in a a great team, with someone who was determined that I should develop professionally, even if that progress meant eventually leaving their team to find new opportunities.

Then, there's my current boss, who's had to take me from working in an institutional law library, to working in a commercial law library. The demands of a commercial law firm are very different to an institutional library, and so there I was on the steep learning curve...again. And once again, I've benefited from having a manager who doesn't regard any of my questions as daft (even when they are), never points out the fact that sometimes I can be mind-numbingly stupid, and gives me the leeway to investigate areas and developments that interest me. This mentoring relationship has been different from my previous one, as my current role involves me working in a different office to my boss, so almost all of our contact is through numerous emails and phone calls. Although stressful at first (this went along the lines of having to suppress the urge to yell "Arghghhgh - stop asking me questions like I'm an expert, on areas I don't know anything about!" when people asked me research questions on topics I'd never even heard of in the five years I'd spent in my previous workplace,) this has actually been beneficial to me, as I can refer back to the emails we have exchanged if I need to, and I've had to develop the skill of outlining issues clearly in writing when trying to discuss any complex research I'm asking her for help on, which has helped when I then have to write a clear and readable response to enquiries from users. And although I'm perfectly capable of doing the research my users ask me to do, knowing that I can phone my boss and just talk things through is a great help - I tend to be able to understand things better once I've chatted to someone about them, it seems to sort things out in my head a bit better! She's totally committed to involvement and improvement in the wider library profession (to the point of taking on an insane workload for herself, on top of her full time job), and she's also unfailingly determined to support me in any professional activity I decide to undertake, and uses our internal appraisal system to integrate activities such as Chartership and Revalidation into my core work objectives. So, all in all, she's pretty handy as a mentor, official or not!

In addition to my workplace mentors, I've recently gained myself a non-employer-related mentor, in the delightful form of Bethan Ruddock, and our work together on a co-mentoring wiki, set up in order to prepare ourselves for Revalidation (public version here). Beth is helping me to track my professional development activities as I go along, rather than the prevous approach of: me doing stuff; me forgetting what I did it; me not reflecting on what I did or didn't gain from it at the time; and me scrabbling about to try and remember what I did, and why.
In return, I'm doing the same for Beth. Despite only having met once for a few hours in a pub (you may begin to see a theme developing here in regards to my professional development activity venues...), we get on well, and are able to gently guide each other in the right direction in regards to creating the evidence to prove that we're proper, Revalidatory professionals :)

The official one
When I decided to begin my Chartership, I begged/bullied/demanded/did sad puppy eyes in order to persuade lmrlib, a fellow law librarian, to do the Mentor training course in order to be my mentor. I felt I needed someone within the same professional sector in order for them to better understand how a Chartership fitted into my role, and already knowing each other meant that I felt we'd be able to work together well. We took a slightly-less-formal-than-may-be-usual approach to our meetings (A.K.A. we met in various pubs after work...well, a girl's gotta eat, right?), but it seemed to work out pretty well for us. We'd work together to set targets for things to be done by me, and dates for them to be done by, go over the materials I'd collated up to that point, and discuss what gaps needed to be filled. As she was a friend, I didn't want to let her down (or discover how truly awful and lazy I really am), so I'd make an extra effort to ensure I was up to date and sorted for our meetings. It also meant I could take any potential criticism a bit less personally, as we could joke about things rather than me thinking a total stranger had judged me, and found me to be a bit rubbish.
That was a pretty successful approach for me!

What did they get from the relationship? And what did I get?
Well, hopefully my bosses have had the benefit of an employee who's been enthusiastic, keen to learn, and perhaps been able to give something useful back to them, in terms of developing new tools or processes in the workplace.
My "official" mentor has had the chance to see if she really wants to be a powerful megalomaniac, imposing her evil will on powerless underlings (judging from how she managed our relationship, that'd be a definite no).
My un-official un-work mentor has had the dubious benefit of me mentoring her, as she mentors me...

For me, I've gained skills, benefited from others experience and knowledge, and have learned various ways of working in order to find one that suits me...yup - having a mentor's great!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Win a book in a bottle

I like to do crafts in my spare time, and in particular, I like to make mini things. And being a librarian, miniature books are a particular favourite. I cut strips of white paper to size, draw tiny dots and dashes and lines on the paper to represent text sections (it's too small to write actual words), glue these together onto a paper strip spine, write a short title on a front page (I can fit approximately three or four short words onto the front cover), glue the front and back covers on, sand or trim the pages to equal sizes, then finally decorate the spine and front cover corners.

So, what I'm offering to do today is to give away this mini book, called "The History of Apples", which fits within the glass bottle you see it in at the top of this post. The bottle lid has a hole, which means this could be worn as a necklace, added to a keyring...or just kept on a shelf to confuse people.

All you have to do is leave a comment below within the next week, completing the following sentence:

"I want The History of Apples" because..."

The most amusing or ridiculous reply is the one who'll get it!

Monday, August 08, 2011

And...the rest

Following the Good and the Bad, this is the WTF category. The contents are...interesting.
Some are fun and cool.
Some are twee-as-Hell, and play on the dowdy/boring/cat-loving old woman librarian theme.
Some have gone for the shushing harridan stereotype.
Some are unusual and interesting.

And some, quite frankly, are terrifying.

I leave it up to you to decide which is which. And whether some of them would find a better home on Regretsy.


And for the Bad...

So, we've seen the Good - often quite pretty or kinda-cool ladies (nobody had tagged solo male images as "librarian", they only seem to turn up within groups or as part of a couple), doing things to do with books, reading, relaxing...that's fine, I can go with that.

Now, we move on to the Bad (or Sexy Girls). There are two main librarian representation stereotype categories - there's the nice girl, and then there's these: the librarians who are obviously repressed, and are secretly just itching to rip their clothes off/show you their cleavage/stand over a handy airvent to flash their pants/ wear short, high-split skirts and stilettos, stockings and garter belts to work.

You know, the standard stuff that us librarians think about doing while trapped behind those big, nasty issue desks...




Wednesday, August 03, 2011

What librarians look like...according to Etsy artists

Etsy is quite a treasure trove of. handcrafted items, in all sorts of materials. Some are great, some are good, and some are....erm....different. You can find all sorts of things when you search on there. I wondered what this random selection of creative types considered to be a librarian, or to look like one.

As a form of mild amusement, I will present here the results of a recent search I did on Etsy using the word "librarian", which brought up results including this word in their description or tag.. Therefore, the choice of whether this is what a librarian looks like is the makers, not mine. Believe me, I would really prefer that some of this stuff wasn't tagged as being a librarian - I got a reputation to uphold here!

They can be perhaps regarded as being in three categories: The Good (or Cute), The Bad (or Sexy), and The....WTF.
Today, I shall begin with...The Good.

The Good




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