Monthly Archives: June 2011

Would You Like To Feel Our New Carpet?

I’ve not worked a Saturday since April 2010. Weird.

Since my defection from the opposition, I’ve gotten used to the whole, “Working nine-to-five, what a way to make a living” thing; and I must say I rather enjoy it: the routine, the commute (I know, seriously- even falling asleep on the train home and suddenly waking with panic, only to realise we’re still in Clapton…) and the feeling that I’ve made full use of a day. When I worked part-time, I had too much free time on my hands, which I blatantly wasted.

Yet, I’d forgotten how much I valued working on a Saturday: the relationships I built with my colleagues and friends, and the satisfaction of functioning independently.

Helping out at the Undergraduate Open Day today reminded me of those positive feelings.

Weekends are different, they feel different- I became quite territorial about full-timers trespassing on my patch; by the same token, when I covered during the week, I always felt like I had been parachuted in, or brought off the bench like a substitute.

Sometimes, working separately from the rest of the team can be unavoidably problematic, for obvious reasons; but spending time outside of my routine acted like a happy memory trigger this afternoon.

Good times.

So what of the Open Day itself?

A big well done to everyone involved for their efforts, especially TeamLibrary! Despite a few technical hitches, some logistical challenges and several questions outside of the crib-sheet remit*, everything went well and (hopefully) we made a good impression! Let’s face it, our Libraries are happening places- just ask the students who try sneaking their X-Boxes, takeaways, alcoholic beverages and tobacco into the Group Study Rooms! Oh, and football in the Sandpit anyone?

Our message was simple- come to City, because the Library is great. Library win!

(Just a note to any senior colleagues reading this- don’t worry, we did elaborate further than a one sentence soundbite)

It was cool to engage with the potential newbies & their parents, and to try to convey the exciting ways in which the Library services work to support and enhance the student learning experience. We do a lot of good stuff, and we should be proud to tell that to anyone who’ll listen.

Less cool was the harsh realisation that it’s now ten years since I went on my first campus tours- and I am amazed at just how confident and single-minded everyone appears to be these days. Are the financial implications of going to university having an impact? Or am I just getting older? Oh God, next I’ll be typing “In my day…”

Sigh.

All in all, I think we put in a solid display, and fully deserved the chocolatey treats so generously provided in order to meet our end-of-day, celebratory, sugar-fix needs.

Speaking of needs, I needed to include this somewhere. Trust me, it’s amazing:

*My top 3 curve-ball questions:

  • So, what’s the music scene like around here?
  • How close are we to the ‘cool’ places?
  • How does City compare with Warwick University, in particular in terms of its business courses and institutional history?

(I wont tell you the answers I provided, on the grounds that it may embarrass all parties concerned, i.e. me…)

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Must. Kill. Bears.

It’s terribly upsetting to discover that icons of your childhood have fallen on hard times.

Sadly, it seems that the once kind-hearted inhabitants of Care-A-Lot, the Care Bears, have abandoned their mission of trying to bring joy and harmony to the World, in favour of violent organised crime. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the collapse of their Unity Government (the Care Bear Cousins withdrew from the coalition), coupled with the Kingdom of Caring’s economic instability in light of the global financial crisis, resulted in irrevocable social breakdown. And now, the Bears have embarked on a savage, gun-toting rampage though the streets. They represent a clear and present danger. They must be stopped. At all costs. And this time, it’s personal.

No, I’m not mad; though it seems contributors to iGoogle’s supply of gadgets are completely bonkers. (Warning- this link to Evil Care Bears does contain bad language, and may result in the gratuitous exploitation of cartoons)

Not only can I open fire on 1980s children’s television characters (today I wantonly butchered 29 bears; less Care-A-Lot, more Kill-A-Lot), I can also receive daily photos of Ashley Judd, and subscribe to The Kitten Daily. Or was it Kitten of the Day? Day of the Kittens maybe? Anyway, the point is, how mental is iGoogle?  

To be honest, I can’t really see the point of it- from my perspective, having everything on one page, through one provider is, well, boring.

Not having a smartphone, I’m guessing that iGoogle’s functionality mirrors the way in which users engage with Apps, and this seems to make more sense in a mobile context. Whilst I did enjoy selecting the Garfield background, and personalising my gadgets, the novelty of it all wore off quite quickly.

However, my judgement may be a little clouded, given that I recently sat through an 11 week module taught by a pro-everything-online zealot, who banged-on incessantly about ‘Freemium’, ‘Citizen Journalism’ & Jeff Jarvis; as a result, my instant adverse reaction to iGoogle was:

Is there anything Google won’t do?

I genuinely have some reservations about Google, whose motto: ‘Dont’ be Evil’, has morphed into: ‘Do be Everywhere’ & Everything’. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of Google running my life and knowing even more about my personal information portfolio. I’ve also taken an extreme disliking to the new Google search facility, with its suggested answers and awkward, arrow-button-hating scrolling style. 

Which is why my head dropped when I saw we were looking at Google Reader. I haven’t used my account properly for months, and at one point actually cancelled my original Google registration. Essentially I’m an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy, who prefers plodding my way through the Internet of 2011 like a 19th century Hansom Cab:

Slowly. Messily. Bumpily.

Except that, reading through Upgrade (and an excellent blog post) I began re-considering the use of the reader and feeds, and then suddenly remembered an epiphany I had a few months back. I’ve always thought that using RSS and aggregators was the preserve of professional people who need to track vast amounts of information and data.

But I’ve come to realise two things:

  1. That’s now me. I’m an Information Professional.
  2. That’s also me. I’m a part-time student.

The fact is, Google Reader could prove to be an invaluable resource for content gathering and storage; and the idea of being able to collate literature searches has opened my eyes to new possibilities for research.

I’m always going to feel uncomfortable with the current (and possibly irreversible) trend towards an information culture based around passive receivership- expecting everything to be done for us. I feel lazy enough as it is at times, and am desperately trying to proactively engage my brain, in a vain attempt to counter a rapidly decreasing attention span. But I suspect I’m going to need all the help I can get over the next three years, and Google Reader + RSS + [insert academic support tool here] might just be the way forwards.

*For legal reasons, I should clarify that in no way have the Care Bears ever been associated with any form of illegal/criminal activity, nor are they homicidal maniacs. Wish Bear has not changed his name to Death-Wish Bear. I have not committed Bearicide.

**Since writing the bulk of this posting, I’ve gone back to Google Reader and subscribed to all the marvellous 23 Things City blogs & Twitter feeds. One small step etc…

***I’ve decided to hang onto iGoogle. Just in case…

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A Classy Little Number

I loathe shopping for clothes.

I find it a soul-destroyingly miserable endeavour, punctuated by moments of intense rage and bitter resentment.

Take yesterday as an example:

I decided to hit Oxford Street in an attempt to find something to wear at a family wedding on Saturday. There’s no formal dress code (in fact, quite the reverse) and, given that I wasn’t intending to put that much effort into the outfit (I’m attending out of obligation; frankly, I’d rather stay home and poke my eyes out with acid-laced knitting needles), I felt relaxed and untroubled by circumstance.

I know, I’ll by a jacket. Or a blazer. Something blazery, in a jackety kind of way.

And then it begins.

Ooh, that looks nice. Do they have a Medium? Excellent. Right, let’s see how this fits… oh, bother; the sleeves are a bit short. Oh well, I’ll try another one. Oh, there are no more Mediums. Maybe I’ll try another store.

I quite like that one. I’ll put on the Medium, no wait, too big. Ok, let’s see. Ah, a Large- great. Hmm, it feels comfy, it looks good oh, nope; too short at the back.

Wow, I really like this linen, I think I’ll try one on. Just search for my size… ah, they’ve decided against S/M/L and opted for a number-based system, with multiple fits and length combinations.

Sigh.

Cue the forlorn trudge home, via the overcrowded sweaty delayed train, and the untimely blustery downpour.

As you can see, not fun.

It’s bad enough having to suffer the indignity of walking through TOPMAN being judged, let alone discovering that, as you thought, nothing here fits or is in your size. In fact, you shouldn’t be in here at all. Please leave.

Then, out of nowhere last night, it suddenly occurred to me-

What these shops need is a Cataloguer!

We all know the clothing-size-identification-system is flawed and has been for years; so, why hasn’t anyone tried broadening it out a little?

Let’s Dewey-ify Westfield!

100: Mens casual sweater.

100.1: Mens casual sweater- Small

100.11: Mens casual sweater- Small, but with slightly longer arms.

100.110: Mens casual sweater- Small, with slightly longer arms but shorter in body.

100.2: Mens casual sweater- Medium.

etc.

(Apologies to our Metadata Co-ordinator, who would undoubtedly gasp in horror at my un-educated, slapdash approach to the craft).

The more I thought about it, the more I realised how much High Street fashion could benefit from Higher Education.

For starters, with Dewey (and orderly shelving) you’d actually be able to find what you’re looking for in H&M (seriously folks, it looked like Primark yesterday).

Imagine having self-check returns?! No more agonising queues, crossing three departments of insurance, luggage and lingerie, only to suffer the impertinent faux-cross examination by an accusatory & suspicious Customer Service assistant intent on declaring you a fraud, as the garment has “clearly been worn.”

No it hasn’t; give me my money back.

I’m not saying I’ve entirely thought this one through- I’m sure there are many drawbacks to my idea.

But, just ruminating on the notion stopped me from opening my front door, exploding in an eruption of vitriol and expletives, before collapsing in a heap of tears and self-pity, all because I couldn’t find anything to make me look nice; and, from despairing over having to return the emergency panic purchase which, in hindsight, doesn’t fit, and I hate it anyway.

Basically, I’m imagining ways in which my work could impact on other industries, in order to avoid a cycle of self-perpetuating emotional torment. I’m clearly growing as an individual.

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The Meaning of Life?

Who am I? Why am I here?

Don’t worry, I’m not going all existential on you.

I started thinking about what the point of this blog was, or would be. The idea of writing a work-related blog never crossed my mind before, probably because I never really felt like I had anything worth saying.

I’ve been blogging for a few years, and in the past, the only time work was mentioned (anonymously and without fear of recrimination) was when I felt the need to let off steam. In fact, some of my best writing has been borne out of frustration and negativity.

But my blogging has been on culture, politics and random stuff. No niche. No specialty.

No point.

It wasn’t until I signed up for 23 Things that I began to think about what I could positively contribute to a dialogue on information and learning.

Until recently, I hadn’t taken the notion of being an ‘Information Professional’ seriously, despite what the nice man from CILIP once told me. But, when I think about it, I’ve been working in Higher Education for a decade now, always in a library context, and the truth is I actually have experience to draw on when it comes to engaging in the subject matter.

And they do say: “Write what you know.”

So, rather than solely blogging in my self-indulgent, look-at-me-I’m-playing-at-being-a-journalist way, I’ve decided to see where blogging about my professional life can take me.

Not that there’s anything wrong with self-indulgent blogging. Essentially, unless you’re actually being paid to do it as part of your job description, that’s what blogging is; and the whole concept of Blogging itself is fascinating, especially given the transformative effect it is having on the creative industries.

Anyway, I feel a tangent coming on…

As you can see, I’ve set up a blog. I used WordPress, for no other reason than not liking Blogger (sorry, it just irritates me and I can’t get on with it. I tried, I really did. Maybe it’s me..?). Well, that’s a lie, I use WordPress already. Two reasons then.

WordPress is great because it’s simple, easy and unfussy. You just pick a theme and start writing. I’m not into the whole HTML CSS thing, and with WordPress that’s not a problem.

I’ve started to explore the world of blogs, helpfully laid out before us on the 23 Things site, and so far this is my favourite: http://bottledmonsters.blogspot.com/; I’d like to say that it captures the essence of information storage and retrieval perfectly, but in reality I was captured by the entertainment value of reading old letters.

I think I’ve decided on a tag/category strategy (try saying that after a few glasses of fizzy) which I shall endeavour to implement, and I plan on heading into Cool Extra Thing 1 territory forthwith. But it’s late, so I’m going home now.

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