Thursday, June 30, 2011

(Mock) trials and tribulations

The mock trial, something more commonly seen in University law schools, is popping up in Scotlands primary schools, with real court practitioners involved.

I like this. I know that, as an adult, the day I went into a court when I went for jury duty was the first time I'd ever been in a working court, despite having worked in the Scottish Courts complex in Edinburgh for years (we're not counting the time when lots of staff in the court complex downed tools and shuffled in to watch Jack McConnell being sworn in as First Minister) .

I didn't know what the court would look like: I was surprised by how modern it was (not like the ones I'd looked through the door windows of at the court complex) . I had a vague idea of who would/should be there, but nothing more than that. I don't work with criminal law, so had only the vaguest of ideas about how things worked in such cases.

Question - has anyone reading this ever visited a court, unless required to for jury duty? If you have, was it what you expected? Did you feel you knew what was going on, and what the dos and don'ts were?

No need to confess your criminal convictions though ;)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dumpling does a drawing #2

Meg mentioned in a comment on my previous drawing that I'd missed a couple of the other ways lawyers utilise expensive law books...so I've created an additional drawing to illustrate one of the other favoured approaches....

Problematic when pots leak

Old Legal 500's: great for putting plants on (or increasing the height of your monitor).

What time is it? It's lawyer time!

Want to see how much you could burn during a meeting or conference call with your lawyers?

Well, now's your chance, with the LawyerClock :)

Start it up, and watch the dollars and cents burn away....

Dumpling does a drawing

I wonder how many other law librarians will find this situation familiar.

Lawyers and books

It's the one where you ask someone where the book signed out by them is, and they strenuously deny all knowledge of it...or even the existence of such a thing as a book...while surrounded by the things.

P.S. Dumpling is not very good at art.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Art books...literally.

I love this story!

A link to a famous thriller and crime writer, mysterious pieces of book-based artwork turning up in libraries and cultural venues around the city, use of Twitter usernames on gift tags to show the maker is familiar with social media...

I hope they manage to display them all together - as a bit of a crafter myself, I do like to see what creative things people can do with old books. :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Thing 3 - My brand (or lack of it)

So, it's time to think about my personal brand, it would appear. Well, I think I can quite clearly and definitely say that my professional brand is hugely muddled, and I've added to that confusion by recently changing my blog name! Who am I? Where am I? Where's my blog gone? Why did I choose such a silly name?

Although if we were talking about my non-professional brand, I'm pretty consistent with what I do there. If you know my usual online username, you'll find me all over the web quite easily. And, as I'm the only person who uses my username (or at least I have been for the last 10 years or so), if you find me out there, it will be me. Of the first 20 Google search results, 18 are about me. This may even potentially be higher, but my account is protected on certain services, and so won't be indexed by Google. And I'm pretty good at closing down accounts with services I no longer use, so they're also usually active accounts, or those in limbo before they're deleted.
So, I think I've got a pretty successful non-professional brand! Luckily, I'm not the sort of person who puts dodgy stuff onto the internet (well, not unless it's been a particularly drunken evening), so even if an external professional found my personal activities, none of it would reflect badly on me.

As for my professional brand? Well, I like to think of myself as a "professhunul" - I'm professional, when the situation calls for it, but mostly, I'm quite laid back, childish, and find it easier to meander about the grown-up issues. The style and tone of the content I write for my blog is echoing the way I communicate with friends or fellow professionals in person...I can do formal if I need to, I just don't feel it's necessarily always the best way to communicate. I'm not an academic, I'm not talking about academic things...in fact, on here, I'm quite often talking about silly things, so I'm happy with my silly/ light tone.

I also like to be mostly-anonymous in my professional online persona. Although it's pretty straightforward to find out who I am if you're that way inclined, I like the one-step-removedness of being not-quite-me. My (shhh, don't tell anyone, but I do actually do them) professional activities can easily be found via a Google search for my real name (and throwing in the word "library", as I apparently share my name with an actress - I promise, those IMDB entries ain't me!), and 9 out of 10 of the first hits are for the Real Me, so when I de-cloak the stealth mode, I can be quite visible. If I want to be!

As for my image/photograph...hmmm...that's another place where I like to be semi-anonymous. I don't use a photo of my current self as an avatar, but I do use a younger version of me, with a few odd amendments. I also use the photo of books that I use on this blog - that even removes the hint of my gender. When I post photos of myself on anywhere "open", they last a few hours to a day before I remove them - I know they're still available in the nooks and crannies of the magical interweb, but they're not sitting Right There any more. Other photos I will post on Flickr, and restrict them only to a "friends and family" group. I am getting slightly more relaxed about photos, but not quite to the extent yet of allowing a photo of my normal self to be linked to my online presence....not even on LinkedIn!

As for LinkedIn itself., I don't really "get" it - I'm there because it's like a shop window for my professional self (in fact, it's the only place where you'll see the Fully Professional version of me), but as I'm not looking for new roles, and I'm happily building my network through other sources (in fact, a lot of my contacts on LinkedIn I've met virtually elsewhere), I just use it to throw information at. It's only there that you'll find my job history, current role and responsibilities, professional groups I'm involved with, training I've organised or attended...LinkedIn is the only place my real name, my real employer, and my real activities go together. I've even put a link on it to this blog...which I suppose makes this blog more formal.

Ohhh hell, I have no idea what I'm doing. Can you tell?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

cpd23 - Thing 2

I've been blog hopping!

Using the cpd23 Delicious bookmarks, I've been having a wander around some participants blogs. I feel I already know certain bloggers reasonably well, so after a wander round their blogs, and some commenting, I branched out into other blogs....the blogs of STRANGERS!  I joined in on an interesting discussion in the comments of Libraries, the Universe and Everything, about what number of RSS feeds people feel is reasonable. Some people are certainly able to deal with a lot more feeds than me, although I suppose it's also not just the number of feeds, but the activity levels of each of those feeds that may be a factor in how many is "too many".

 I have to admit though, I kind of lost track of where I had been, as I would click on the link of a blog commenter, then comment and follow a link to another comment on their blog...and forget to click the "send emails of following comments" option. D'oh!

I also learned that finding the blogs of commenters on other peoples blog posts isn't always straightforward - I've never seen a Gravatar, or clicked on one before, so when I saw someone commenting here using one, it took me a few clicks to work out where their blog was! It also led me to using Google Translate to read the blog linked to, whereas before I would just have clicked away.

I quite liked this commenting Thing - when I come across a blog I like, unless I already have some sort of "relationship" with the blogger (eg via Twitter), I quite often I don't comment as it feels like I may be pushing myself unwantedly into a private conversation (yup, I'd be the one at the party worried about talking to strangers, in case the strangers think I'm a fool), but knowing that cdp23 participants are actively wanting to comment and have their posts commented on fells more like I've been "invited".

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

cpd23 Week One - Blogging

So, week one of cpd23 begins, and participants are asked to set up a blog, if they don't already have one. Well, I've had this blog (in it's previous incarnation as "Jennie Law" for four years, so I think I'm good for the "setting up and getting used to blogging" part of Thing One :)

I set this blog up originally as just somewhere to share the interesting things I found around the internet, with no real expectation of many others finding or reading it (and hence very little thought about a good name). At the time, there were only one or two other law librarians that I knew of blogging, so it didn't seem like it would be something long term, but for that moment, it felt good to be able to share some random thoughts with other law librarians, and to be able to learn from their blogs. I've stuck with it, despite a few periods of thinking "I've got nothing to say!" (and then finding a month or so later that I suddenly had a flood of things to say), and now that I'm able to contrast it against other methods of sharing thoughts like Twitter, I'm appreciating more the ability it gives me to expand on ideas though masses of words, meandering as they may be! And the interaction that comes through comments being left here for me, and me going off and commenting elsewhere.

Next up...so, why am I taking part in cpd23?

Well, I work in a law firm. Law firms fall into the category of "special libraries" along with health libraries, science libraries, and all sorts of other places most people don't know exists, and they're quite different places to work in, compared to the "usual" libraries, ie public, school, academic. Typically in Scotland, law firm libraries are staffed by only one person, or if you're lucky, a few people: despite having many firms with multiple offices, often serving multiple jurisdictions, Scots law firms libraries do not have the luxury of lots of library staff. Many law librarians work as solo librarians, which can be quite isolating, so, we have our own groups and associations to help us network, and get the specialist training we need. We can also be put under quite a lot of pressure from our users, and depending on the workplace culture, can either be respected and needed, or looked upon as money-draining annoyances. The need to develop skills and knowledge in this niche area, while working alone or with little support, and constantly needing to defend the existence of the service, can lead to someone working in law to ignore the wider information world, as it's all they can do to keep up with their own world.

I've tried to avoid becoming too insular: I'm involved in my specialist professional group (The Scottish Law Librarians Group), I have good contacts with people in other information areas, I try to go to events outside my area if I can, I keep track of the Big Issues in the library world ...but the risk is that I become too settled, and I lose the impetus to do those things, and to keep meeting new people (online, or in real life). I'm hoping CPD23 will give me a push to remind me not to sit back and let things pass over my head when it feel like it'll be an effort to find out what's going on, and not to get lazy!

I'm also looking forward to finding some more new librarian blogs: I did the massive trawl to find them all in the first place to set up the UK Library Bloggers wiki, and the periodic updates it needed to add the new blogs I found or was sent, until the wiki was opened for public updates over a year ago. I still manage the entries (for people who claim to be librarians, there's a lot of individuals out there that can't put things in alphabetical order!), but I've not really had a chance to look at the blogs where people have added themselves...and really, I should be looking!

And now for a disclaimer: I may have difficulties with some of the Things for this course: I can't talk much (if at all) about certain topics, like my work, the technology we use in the firm, financial issues, training resources, any personal feelings I have about anything I do or don't do etc...so if I'm not posting on a certain topic, or being annoyingly vague and neutral, it's not because I'm lazy or not getting into the spirit of things, I just have to be sensible about what I say :)
Because yes, some of my co-workers have discovered this blog, and they do know who I am.... ;)

What Dumpling Learned Today, #1

Today, I learned that Scots no longer lay boys down on stones that mark boundaries and whip them, in order for them to be sufficiently traumatised by the event that they will memorise the position of the stones for the rest of their lives.

It appears that the development of fencing in the eighteenth century is wonderful in many, many ways.
And generations of boys must be truly grateful for this.

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Favourite CDP Things



Blogging, and tweeting, and making connections,
Exploring resources, professional reflection, 
Email alerts that make my inbox go "ping",
These are a few of my CPD Things.


Training, and Chartering, and being a mentor,
The professional chances I need to look out for,
Figuring out how to build a search string,
These are a few of my CPD Things.


Finding the tools to help with citations,
Top tips on giving a good presentation,
As long as no-one out there expects me to sing,
These are a few of my CPD Things.


When the work looms, when the time's short,
When I'm feeling bad,
I simply remember my CPD Things, 
And then I don't feel so bad!


Yes, indeedy, this post is my (somewhat random) way of announcing I've signed myself up for the 23 Things For Professional Development programme.
Are you signed up?
C'mon, join in: it's free, and useful to information professionals workingin all fields - how many things can you say that applies to nowadays?

Feel free to add more verses too - I believe there's more potential for rhyming here still :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chaotic convening

A few years ago, I ended up becoming the Convenor of my professional group. Now, this wasn't because of outrageous ambition or a wild desire for power. Nope: it was more along the lines of "somebody has to do it, and you look like you won't break too much expensive or important stuff". My predecessor was wonderful: very organised, professional, and efficient. I think I can say I took that as a challenge not to live up to...I am definitely more of a Chaotic Convenor.

This is how I convene a meeting*:

  • Fumble about with the paperwork, and realise I didn't print out the agenda and previous meetings minutes.
  • Sheepishly ask if anyone has spare copies/steal another Committee members copy while they aren't looking, and protest innocence and surprise when the missing papers are discovered.
  • Select which pretty colour of gel ink pen to use.
  • Ask what I'm meant to do.
  • Start going over the minutes of the previous meeting.
  • Ask if that's what I'm meant to be doing.
  • Meander off point in an epic manner at any random point.
  • Decide it's time for a snack.
  • Sing along to music seeping in from outside.
  • Scribble semi-comprehensible notes everywhere.
  • Descend into gossip occasionally.
  • Ask whereabouts we were in the agenda, because I lost track.
  • Be mildly cheeky to the quieter members of the Committee to provoke them into joining in.
  • Eventually discuss all the things we needed to discuss.
  • Nominate anyone but myself to do the work needing to be done (I am developing this into a fine art).

Now, if anyone wants tips on how to convene in a manner as excellent as mine, I am available for lessons.
But you'll have to arrange the date.
And location.
And can you book the room?
Oh, can you also print out some spare copies of the agenda?
Wait a minute: what day was it again?



* This may, or may not be an entirely accurate account.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I renamed myself...now I'm a dumpling.

So, for various reasons stated previously, I decided to shoogle the blog about a bit, and I finally decided on what I think you can agree is perhaps a somewhat random name. It doesn't have a hint of law or libraries in it, but then, quite often, neither do my posts!

The name does have some little bit of reason behind it: it's part of the lyrics to a Jimmy Logan song my Mum used to sing to me as a child...and I'm pretty childish myself ;)

So, this is my first post as a Dumpling! :D

My previous contact email address will still work if you have that, but old blog links won't, so feel free to update your bookmarks if you have any :)

*waddles off in a dumpy, dumplingy manner*

Monday, June 06, 2011

Thank you for going to events...now stop talking about them.

I like Twitter - it lets me (virtually, and often eventually, physically) meet lovely people. I've made contacts and friendships in the UK and abroad with information professionals in all sectors, programmers and coders of all types, lawyers and barristers in all fields, government staff of all types, teachers, au pairs, historians, housewives, artists...Through the ability to interact on Twitter, I've had help on many occasions to source hard to find materials, or been able to ask people with experience in other fields for advice.

But what I have really grown to hate is the people tweeting Every Single Point made at these events. When you tend to follow a lot of people who work in similar sectors (unsurprisingly for me, that's librarians), you also find a lot of them go to the same events. And that means that you have a LOT of people tweeting exactly the same thing, sometimes differently worded, continuously during talks. The useful content of each tweet usually is low - the tweeter needs to use up characters to include the hashtag, punctuate to make sense of short points, and often there's a need to include the initials of the speaker, all of which cuts some of the space available for information. When there are parallel sessions running at an event, you usually get different people tweeting about different talks, at the same time and with the same hashtag: very confusing! What also adds to the fun is when other people not attending feel that a point made in a tweet is so exciting, that they instantly retweet it, meaning you have both the tweet, and the immediate retweet clogging things up.

What I would much prefer is that they paid full attention to the talks (rather than trying to compress Big Ideas into 140 characters within 30 seconds of them being uttered), took personal notes, and then, if they really want to spread this information further, they use the information they noted down to write a blog post. I'd far rather read and comment on an overview of the important points of a talk, with the writers views on the event included, at a time that suits me, than be flooded by a stream on the day. A blog post allows discussion over a longer period of time, and allows those not able to monitor the tweets at the time that they are posted to be able to be part of the discussion. It also allows reference back to the discussion, rather than it being a throwaway five minutes which is soon lost to oblivion on Twitter.

I've tried exploring ways to block tweets using certain hashtags when the volume of them from events has become overwhelming, but as a protected user, my options for filtering out information via hashtag are limited - the resources I have been pointed towards either don't work for protected accounts, or involve me unfollowing people. If I'm using a programme to automatically unfollow a dozen people, what are the chances that I'll remember to refollow them? Not high. And doing that also would mean I would have someone who was following me and able to access my tweets, without me being able to speak to them. Not to mention the annoyance for the person I unfollow if they're protected, and have to allow my ensuing request to be allowed to follow them again. So, no, not really much I can do about the tweet floods. Other than ignore Twitter during the period of certain events.Which is quite frustrating, as it's such a useful tool.

Yes, I know a lot of people feel like they're almost-attending a conference if they can follow the stream or hashtag, but to do that and interact you need to be following it in real time...which means that you if aren't able to go to the event in the first place, and therefore are presumably currently working, where are you going to find the time to "virtually" attend throughout it?

Friday, June 03, 2011

Four Go Mad in Tayside

Oh yes, the life of a law librarian laydee's not all frantic researching, and running as fast as you can, just to stay still. No: sometimes we're unshackled from our desks, and allowed to roam freely in the open air.

So, today, me and three other law librarians will be gleefully running out of our offices after work, for a road trip to Loch Tay, to do crazy things...like edumacating ourselves on some history at the Crannog Centre, sampling traditional Scottish health foods such as fish and chips, wandering around in the woods (we're not going to mention the Blair Witch, mmkay?), and, if we're feeling really brave, and confident enough that each of us know which direction to point in, perhaps some archery...

I believe there will also have to be lashings and lashings of (perhaps somewhat alcoholic) ginger beer.

And I solemnly swear that none of us will be allowed to put any books, CDs or DVDs in alphabetical order.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Scottish Law Librarians Group training course - Google and Beyond!

Are you:

  • In Scotland?
  • An information professional?
  • Keen to improve your web research skills?
  • Unlikely to get the time or funding to travel to London for the most popular and useful courses by experienced trainers?

Then come to this training day in Edinburgh on Monday 13th June. Presented on behalf of the Scottish Law Librarians Group, Phil Bradley will be leading a full day course (split into a morning and afternoon session), first on getting the most out of Google, and then going beyond Google to using other online resources and tools.

If you're interested, contact the organiser soon - places are limited, and only a few are left!

Online opinions, and offline submissions

What judges like best

This news from America about the online version of court opinions being the "official" version reminded me of a situation we have here in Scotland, although in this case it's about acceptable electronic versions for submission to the court.

Technically, there's no reason that Judges and Sheriffs won't accept an electronic version of a case report - Practice Note 2 of 2004 authorises the use of an electronic case report when it is:
"reported in a series of reports by means of a copy of a reproduction of the opinion in electronic  form that has been authorised by the publisher of the relevant series, provided that the report is presented to the court in an easily legible form and that the advocate presenting the report is satisfied that it has been reproduced in an accurate form from the data source."
What this should mean is that the electronic version of a case report should be perfectly acceptable to the court, unless someone decides that it's not an accurate representation of the printed materials, and that as long as the person supplying the material to the court is happy that it's an accurate copy of the printed material.

What actually happens is that no-one is willing to risk their submissions being rejected by the court because they don't accept the electronic version to be a true copy of the printed form. If that happened, it would lead to a costly delay while the work of sourcing and replicating hard copy of the relevant cases has to be carried out. I haven't had experience personally of electronic versions of cases being rejected (probably because we don't take the risk of submitting them as anything other than a photocopy from the original!), but I have heard that various judges and sheriffs don't look too kindly upon the idea of electronic case reports being submitted to them.

So, instead, seven years after the Practice Note was issued, everyone still continues to photocopy hard copies of case reports, and nobody wants to risk being told to go back and get a "proper" copy of a report.

The only good thing about this is that legal electronic database suppliers have taken the useful step of providing some of their case reports as a pdf scan of the original document, which the courts will happily accept, as it's no different than a photocopy. Of course, that's only useful if you can afford to subscribe to all the databases you need...
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