Thursday, August 30, 2012

Messages in bottles

It seems to be the week for messages in bottles being discovered in Scotland, filled with either mysterious (or not so much, when translated, but still a lovely sentiment) or vintage scientific messages.

Looks like that's my weekend sorted then: I shall contribute to the world stock of random messages in bottles, adrift at sea.

What message should I put in my bottles?...





Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Super valid, professional-istic, aren't I precocious?

So, only three short months after submission*, and yet still many weeks before the next scheduled Board meeting on 12th September (CILIP moves in arcane ways), I got an Exciting Email on the 24th August - my Chartership Revalidation portfolio had been accepted, yaaaaaaaaaay!

So, I believe this makes me a Very Valid librarian. You may worship at my feet, and shower me with gifts and adoration now...

And it also possibly shows me to be reasonably masochistic, to have effectively put myself through the whole Chartership process all over again, four years** after I did it for the first time. Not to mention that fact that I'm going to be doing it again in another three years***.

So why did I do it? Well, to quote George Mallory, "because it's there". Also, because it works well within my workplace's appraisal system. This system focusses on enabling staff to identify and address any deficiencies in either their own skills, or in the services that they provide to other staff, and allows them to set aside time to improve these areas, and set completion targets. So, it's actually part of the structure of my job to regularly look at what needs improved, and work on it...much like the Chartership and Revalidation process.

And as bizarre as it sounds, the feeling of achievement (if you disregard the minor, last minute doubts and panic) as you package up those copies to send off for assessment, is one of the few times that you get to look at a Big Professional Thing and think "Yeah: I did all that stuff in there. You know, I'm actually pretty good at this librarianing lark after all"...



* Warning: sarcasm.

**Yes, it's recommended that it be three years, but life happens.

*** Or so...dependent on workload/free time

Monday, August 20, 2012

Discussing the internet...offline

Spiegeltent inner roof canopy
Last week, I was part of the Scottish Law Librarians Group annual outing to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. This year, the chosen talk was The Guardian debate, "Rethinking the Internet: is the web changing society for the worse?", with the following description:

We have embraced the online revolution with open arms and nearly 20% of all retail purchases are now made via the internet. More than that, the internet appears to be empowering citizens in ways that challenge the traditional relationship between individual and state. Is the net effect positive or negative? Writer Nick Harkaway, novelist Naomi Alderman and James Gleick, author of The Information, lead the discussion. Chaired by Ian Katz, Deputy Editor of the Guardian. *
So, you'd think with that sort of blurb that the debate would allow some involvement from those not in the room, via the internet itself e.g. that someone official (the Book Festival does have a Twitter account, and they're using a hashtag for the event) would be there to live tweet it, maybe taking questions from the wider audience on the internet to pass to the panel. Perhaps a Twitterfall display, to show tweets and comments being made about the event by both those in the room and those following the event from outside, as they were being made. And of course, there'd be a hashtag to allow people on Twitter to take part virtually, using the hashtag to allow an easy collation of tweets about that particular session. You can't really have a debate about the internet without a hashtag, right?

Wrong.

There wasn't the slightest hint of any desire by the organisers to use the exact medium that was being discussed, in order to allow a wider pool of people to be involved in the debate. As there was no hashtag, my friend Laura Kidd decided to set one up, and as you can see from the link below, there was plenty of activity on it. Imagine how much more reach and publicity the organisers would have had if they'd actually set up the hashtag themselves, and informed their many followers?

http://www.tweetdoc.org/View/51868/Rethinking-the-Internet **

The chair was also entirely disinterested in engaging with anything to do with the internet (in between his summing up of audience questions, during which he entirely altered and changed the original question being asked in about 50% of them, as he didn't seem to understand what the audience members were asking), made lots of statements about why it was a Bad Thing (including, bizarrely, why internet dating was a terrible development), and did not want to hear about, or use the questions being raised by any of the people who were eagerly following the debate via Twitter.

The speakers themselves were excellent, and their discussions were obviously firing up a lot of people in the audience, who were keen to ask them questions inspired by their debate, and hands shot up all over the room when the chance came. This same enthusiasm from those online was thwarted, as there was no way for them to interact with the speakers, and no official tweeter in the room to direct their comments to, to channel them towards the speakers.

Sometimes, people just don't seem to grasp the potential and worldwide reach of social media! This could have been a two-part event: the physical one, with the panel discussing, and the audience listening, with a virtual event running alongside, with thousands of people both inside and outside the venue taking part in a debate using the actual technology being discussed.

Instead, we got a discussion that included only those in the room, having their questions changed and simplified by the chair, and the event ending when the lights went up, instead of cascading outwards online, and continuing and developing in all sorts of interesting directions, for everyone to take part in.

*sigh*

Maybe next year, the Book Festival will get the hang of making and publicising hashtags for, if not each event, at least those ones where social media is being discussed and is therefore highly likely to be being used!



The Guardian Book Festival logo in the Spiegeltent


*Naomi Alderman was unable to be there, and the debate was actually chaired by author Ewan Morrison.

** Does not include Retweets, as far as I can tell. Tweets using the designated hashtag #GuardianRethink are still available as of 20 August, but will be deleted within a few days by Twitter.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Summer in the Library

Ohhh, it's all gone quiet on the news front, hasn't it? Normally, summer is a much quieter time around the office anyway, as less information's coming in. The Scottish and Westminster Parliaments are in recess, courts are in summer vacation period, and the "Silly Season" begins in the newspapers. Currently, the Silly Season stories are being replaced by the Olympic Frenzy stories, which are almost as mind-numbing.in content, and as irrelevant to my usual work as the daft stories about things like a cartoon-style hamster pursuit.*

This leads to a slight lessening in the volume of routine work coming in...but unfortunately, that doesn't mean we get to slack off, sit twiddling our thumbs, or race the Library study chairs around the office. Oh no: now's the time when all those, pushed-to-the-bottom-of-the-To-Do-list,  "when I get some more time" projects start to get all the attention!

Need to revise and update in-house training materials?
Summer!
Need to plan and reallocate stuff for the new trainee intake?
Summer!
Need to check or draft any internal policies?
Summer!
Need to create a new training exercise from scratch?
Summer!
Need to weed your shelves of outdated materials?
Summer!
Need to check the online databases, and ensure all the user information is current and accurate?
Summer!
Need to make sure all your admin materials are sorted out?
Summer!
Need to catalogue that pile of conference papers that have mysteriously appeared on your desk?
Summer!
Need to get stuff sent off for binding, when it's least likely to be asked for?
Summer!

Relaxing summer holidays? Not around here!

*No: I really, really am not the slightest bit interested in Olympic sports. I really don't care at all. Apparently, this concept just does not compute for some people, and they think I just "need to find the right sport" to suddenly become interested in the whole thing. I don't. I've watched nothing of the Olympics but the opening ceremony. Yes: that was utterly insane and fabulous, but that's more than enough Olympics for me.
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