Monthly Archives: July 2011

Library 2012

So, I was watching the coverage of time passing ahead of the Olympics next year, and started thinking:

What if we had our very own Library Olympics?

We could have events, medals & ceremonies. Wear lycra. Eww, okay, maybe not the lycra- after all, it probably wouldn’t meet the dress code. Or, would it..?

Anyway, the events would obviously have to be library related, so I’m thinking:

  • Speed shelving
  • 100m book trolley dash
  • Hurdling the Level 2 barriers (some of the students would ace this)
  • Marathon (race up the stairs from Level 2 to 6, Empire State Run style)
  • 4x400m Processing Relay
  • 50k walk (we’d have to get the RMT on board for this one, shouldn’t be too difficult…)
  • DDDecathlon

We’ve got a Pool, and a tannoy for announcements, as well as access to national anthems online (my personal favourite is Italy). Ooh ooh ooh, and we’ve got some podiums going spare on Level 5!

Plus, with this Olympics, we’d all be guaranteed tickets.

All we need now is an organising committee. I suppose we could hijack re-imagine the new 2012 monitoring group, or whatever they’re called.

Good.  

That’s decided then. Perhaps I’ll bring this up at the staff meeting tomorrow..?*

(*I’m not going to be bringing this up at the staff meeting tomorrow).

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“Okay, Let’s Have A Threesome!”

Who knew impromptu Irish dancing could be so much fun?!

On Friday I went to a closure party which, on the face of it, sounds like some sort of dreadful post-break-up group therapy meeting. In fact, it was the closure party for the building where I used to work before joining City: the Whipps Cross Campus of London South Bank University. LSBU decided to axe the site prior to Christmas, leaving all of my former colleagues facing redundancy (so, I suppose you could call it a bad break-up of sorts…)

I first joined LSBU in 2001, when I decided to work for a year after leaving college. I rejoined again in 2004 after dropping out of university (don’t ask) and at the time, the plan was to go back to uni within a couple of years; instead, I worked there until May 2010.

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I loved my job at WX. Working at the site, which was little more than a glorified shed, was like being part of an intimate community. Everyone pulled together in the face of the unique challenges faced by an external campus. We were able to build relationships with the students and nursing staff, many of whom became ‘regulars’ over the years. And, I’m happy to say, I’ve made some lasting friendships with the people I worked with too.

It was because of these friendships that I went on Friday, to share in the experience of saying goodbye.

I was less than thrilled when I realised that I’d arrived just in time for the speeches… but, listening to staff members recounting tales from the 1970s (when the building was the local Nursing School), and recalling memories from the days when the PCs were BBC and not Dell, was fun; and hearing from students was especially touching, to know that they valued the support and experience they’d received/had. There were some special mentions, parting gifts (including for the site cleaner) and even a surprise vocal solo from one lecturer (just the right side of embarrassing), before the buffet was opened, the booze poured, and the music kicked into gear.

The whole event was sweet and parochial, which was about right. 

It was good to catch up with everybody, and hopefully there’s going to be a meal at some point in the near future, when we can properly reminisce about all of the fun, weird & crazy times we had. And oh yes, there were crazy times. It’s impossible for me to adequately cover everything in one mere blog post; however…

Here are my Top Ten WX moments:

  • TeaspoonGate
  • Cupboard of Doom
  • Mouse in the House
  • The Dead Body
  • Snowpocalypse
  • AppraisalGate
  • Making a Meal of it.
  • J’Accuse!
  • The Case of the Disappearing Librarian
  • To Catch a Thief (and let him go again)

Some people may have heard a few of these before. From my perspective, my experiences at WX, both good and bad, are framed and viewed with a huge dose of ironic satisfaction.

Even the bad times were good- particularly as they’ve kept me in a surplus of anecdotes for years!

Finally, I should explain- for some reason, the live entertainment was provided by an Irish folk band. At the end of the evening, I found myself roped in to taking part in the ‘last dance’, which turned out to be some sort of group Hoedown. First we formed a circle; then various characteristics were beckoned forwards to the middle (“All those wearing skirts” [clap] etc.); then we were ordered to “Swing with a partner”; then “Promenade with your partner”; and then, after several circuits to a jaunty Irish beat, for some inexplicable reason, the woman on the microphone shouted, “Okay, now let’s have a threesome!”.

Needless to say, it took some of us somewhat by surprise. I laughed so hard my sides hurt. Oh the havoc ignorance and Cava can wreak…

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Monkey Doodle Handy

What do you people want, blood?

Perhaps a slight overreaction, but, honestly, 23 Things Makers: what came over you?

I started reading Thing 13, then I scrolled a bit, read some more, scroll, read, scroll, read, scroll, read, scroll OMG! Will it never end! I mean, War and Peace anyone?!

This hysterical preamble is my way of building the case for the defense. My defense. For not doing all the tasks.

[Gasp]

I know. (Bows head in shame)

I’ve not been well. (Shakes head)

I tried, I really did! (Pleads with hands)

I just couldn’t handle the pressure. I beg of you, have mercy!

[Exit, pursued by angry Librarian]

I also became wrapped up in Prezis, and got slightly carried away with concocting silly questions, resulting in a substantial time-deficit; but that’s beside the point…

Anyway, here’s my Prezi.

Prezi is an excellent presentation tool. I’d never used it before [insert your own jokes about my Prezi here]; in fact, I didn’t know it existed until I came to City. It’s pitched as a user-friendly and more exciting alternative to PowerPoint, and in many ways this is a fair comparison. From what I’ve seen so far, Prezi feels like the dress-down Friday version of PowerPoint: more creative, accessible and fun to use, but no less credible in terms of its content provision. Additionally, the functionality and interactivity of Prezi make it ideally suited for collaborative work.

However, I wouldn’t write off PowerPoint just yet.

I’d be less keen as a presentationee (?), particularly in a classroom setting- where the emphasis is on absorbing complex topics- to be on the receiving end of a full-on Prezi, with it’s potentially disorientating effects and open-ended layout options. There’s something to be said for a simple, clear slideshow, backing up an engaging tutor. There are also a few technical drawbacks with Prezi, but from what I’ve been reading, these are being continually ironed out and the technology updated; so hopefully Prezi will become even more dynamic in the future.

As dedicated readers of this blog (and those of you kind/foolish enough to follow me on Twitter may be aware), I registered with Survey Monkey and went and did one. A big thank you to everyone who tackled the Questions That Need Asking, and for the positive feedback. Obviously, I’ve shown a complete disregard for the methodology of survey construction; but it’s my survey, and I’ll make it trashy if I want to.

I’ve had a lot of fun with Survey Monkey. After all the hoopla of Prezi, and the wowness of Web 2.0 in general, it was hysterically refreshing to be using a programme with Windows ’95 stylings. I suddenly became nostalgic for Microsoft Works, dial-up and Joanna Lumley; though not for my inkjet printer, which promised 3 pages per minute, but actually took 3 minutes per page.

Fist-gnawingly slow.

Survey Monkey might be a little clunky and lacking in finesse, but it does its job and sometimes that’s what’s important. The survey is open until Friday, and the official results will be revealed asap!

I’ve had some recent experience with Doodle, though in a slightly different context. This year, my university department decided to employ Doodle as the mechanism for selecting module options for the forthcoming academic year. From what I can gather, I don’t think this has proved a resounding success, possibly more as a result of poor planning and administration, rather than the merits of Doodle itself.

And I think this is a key point: It’s all very well having Web 2.0 tools at our disposal, but it’s the co-ordination and implementation which has as much to do with a project’s success or failure, as opposed to just the technology. Personally, I think a downloadable pdf or simple online form would have sufficed, but what do I know?

Doodle has a great name, an appealing concept, and is definitely worth further investigation from now on.

I have registered with Remember The Milk, and have invited a poor unsuspecting colleague to join me.

I don’t like the fact that I couldn’t just send my task to someone without forcing them to register- after all, I could have just emailed them anyway- what exactly is the USP here? Clearly I’m missing something. Maybe I should have used Doodle to schedule a chat about RTM? But how would I have remembered to use Doodle in the first place? I can’t even remember what I went upstairs for. If only there was a tool to help me organise my life, and overcome these increasing memory lapses?

What was the last Cool Thing? Oh, yeah, Google Docs.

Erm, right. Google Docs is a search engine designed to help you locate your nearest certified medical practitioner. It’s great. Amazing in fact. Everyone should use it.

Cool.

# Apologies for the lack of embedded content. I tried to embed my Prezi, but 2 hours of trying to grasp gigya codes (disappointingly, nothing to do with Quagmire) and such nonsense defeated me. It’s Sunday, I’ve already missed the Grand Prix (go Hamilton!) and don’t intend missing lunch.

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Connect Four

(1) At first I was uncomfortable with the idea of being poked. Then, when it finally happened, I didn’t really understand what had happened. Suffice to say, I thought I was continually being poked, and so kept returning the favour. Then I realised that the message telling me that I’d been poked would remain until I deleted it.

Facebook faux pas.

Unfortunate as this was, the fact I am on Facebook at all is a social networking breakthrough for me. I swore against it:

No. Never. Ghastly idea.

Ultimately, a combination of peer pressure and tutor pressure (apparently “all journalists are on it and you should be too!”) led me to joining the phenomenon, albeit about ten years too late. No sooner had I joined, then I found everyone was experiencing Facebook fatigue and/or committing Facebook suicide (was it something I said?). To be honest, I don’t use it properly- it was six months before I added a picture, and longer before I relaxed some of my privacy settings. I also feel it’s a stalker’s paradise.

Having looked at a few of the Library FB examples, I can’t say they’re thrilling me. As a personal platform, I can see the benefits of FB, particularly the ability to plan events and interact with large groups of people. But I’m less keen on the idea of integrating FB with my workplace/study environments.

(2) As for LinkedIn, I’m undecided as to its effectiveness. On the one hand, I can see the obvious benefits in terms of establishing professional contacts, particularly within the creative and business industries. On the other hand, once I’d registered, filled in some details and started looking for contacts to add, I stopped and thought to myself:

What’s the point?

My existing work colleagues know who I am and where my desk is; and in my role, it’s unlikely that I’m going to be headhunted by some multi-national conglomerate offering me a six figure salary, New York penthouse apartment and private jet. Perhaps when I have more confidence in my own professional/career portfolio I’ll use it, but right now I’m just not ready for LinkedIn. I also find it extremely tedious to navigate, what with its boxes, labels, and stuff everywhere; it’s all rather clunky for my liking, and I take a particular dislike to its bar-chart-of-failure, informing me that I’ve only completed 60% of the registration process. Not as far as I’m concerned. Go away!

(3) And then there was Twitter.

I hated Twitter. It was right up there for me, riding high in the pantheon of irrational hatred, with Facebook, Mariah Carey and Derby.

“All journalists are on Twitter, and you should be too!” was the order; I thought all journalists were far too busy hacking people’s phones than to be sending status updates and tweets all day, but what do I know..?

Anyway, reluctantly I signed up and… I LOVE IT!

Twitter suits me entirely, because it’s pithy, vacuous and deeply self-serving. I know, there are lots of wonderful ways in which Twitter can enhance communications, build social networks and serve a valuable democratic purpose; and the Jan Moir/Stephen Gately scandal brilliantly illustrated the way in which comment on Twitter can influence the news agenda. But I love Twitter for the throwaway triviality- being able to bitch, chat, exchange and interact, and then dispose of the content instantaneously. I think the Library of Congress are bonkers for archiving Tweets (nobody needs to track my commentary on the Eurovision Song Contest, nor my rants at TFL) as Twitter is such an ‘in the moment’ medium. Twitter is the ultimate Web 2.0 product for the low attention-span generation, and as soon as I get myself a smartphone, I’m going to be all over it.

(4) How does this fit in with our work in the library?

Obviously, engaging with our service users is paramount in order to develop effective strategies to support the learning process. But I also think that there should be some degree of separation between student/institution and employee/employer. That’s why I’m:

  • Unsure as to whether publicizing my Twitter profile here is a sensible idea, and:
  • Question whether it’s always wise to utilise every social networking tool in the book in an attempt to connect with students/stakeholders.

I think there is a delicate balance to be struck between engaging with people, and chasing after them. It’s like when politicians tell you about the contents of their iPod, or your parents start describing things as ‘mingin’ or ‘wicked’.

Not cool. Very embarrassing.     

 

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Why Don’t You Come Up Sometime And CC Me?

Creative Commons: Sensible solution, or accidental antithesis?

I’ve spent some time trying to understand Creative Commons and the arguments in favour of its usage. As a traditionalist, I believe in paying for access to creative product: I use iTunes, feel uncomfortable borrowing dodgy DVDs and, despite encouragement from friends (and an increasing resentment for all my favourite TV shows being gobbled up by SKY) have no intention of going Torrenting. I don’t understand why it’s seen as acceptable for artists to be devalued and their talent undermined simply because we have the Internet. Why should a writer be denied financial security and profitable recognition for their work, merely because technology makes it possible?

We appear to live in a society where an obsession with cost has overtaken an understanding of value.

I also (and this probably flies in the face of both modern thinking and the information industry as a whole) have some reservations towards the concept of open access- be it information or software- as a panacea of learning and progressive educational advancement. I’m probably coming across as a 21st Century King Cnut, waving my sword in pitiful defiance at the waves of reality crashing into my feet.

Sigh.

Anyway, my point is, I’m supportive of the notion of trying to safeguard the rights of an individual in regards to their intellectual property and artistic integrity; therefore, I think Creative Commons is a potentially meritorious project.

However, like my Cnut-esque protestations about the modern world, Creative Commons is an extremely idealistic concept, raising all kinds of questions in terms of its legality and practical enforcement. And, let’s be honest, we’ve all borrowed a CD from a friend, a book from a colleague and, in our darker moments, taped stuff off the radio (ah, the days of cassettes and pressing pause/record at the same time…). The fact is, if people are going to illegally share/copy/download, then they’re not going to pay much attention to a little symbol on the corner of a website, especially when the full force of the law has proved so clumsily inadequate as a deterrent.

I actually feel that the concept of Creative Commons contradicts itself in its own terms. Creative Commons seems to have been setup in order to encourage responsible free sharing of content online. Yet CC admits that it only works in concert with existing regulations. Rather than opening up content and information sharing, Creative Commons is actually helping to reinforce the established (flawed) boundaries between those who generate original work, and those who take advantage of the work of others. Copyright law is already floundering under the weight of the Internet, and yet Creative Commons wants to add another layer of, frankly, inept restrictions, on top of the problem.

I also noticed that on Flickr, many people are using the more restrictive licenses, and actually transferring their licensing controls to a corporate entity (Getty Images) in order to protect their commercial interests. In this instance, Creative Commons is failing to meet the challenge of the Internet; in addition, the Flickr/Getty setup serves as a reminder that the Internet is continuing to be colonised by major commercial stakeholders.

Apologies, I’ve probably mangled my points here. I knew what I wanted to say as I started typing, and then sort of got jumbled up in the argument. Essentially, I like the idea of CC, but don’t think it’s the perfect answer to the online copyright question.

Anyway, enough of this! Let’s get to the fun part:

This week’s first Thing was about Creative Commons, or CC as it’s known. So, I thought I’d present a tribute to some of the other famous CC’s who have gone before (extra prize if you can guess who/what they are without cursor-hovering for the answer!):

(1) Popstar: CeCePeniston3.CPF.WDC.11jun06

(2) Actress*:

(3) Popular music group: 10cc

(4) Motorcycle**: 1973 Triumph Tiger

(5) Religious figure: St Francis of Asisi

(*Actress: CCH Pounder)

(**Motorcycle: It’s 750cc…)

I must admit, I found the CC searching on Flickr awkward- sometimes it was more helpful to use the normal search as it yielded greater options. I found formatting the images on WordPress quite fiddly & time-consuming (maybe I was doing something wrong) and must say a massive Thank You to Library Apocalypse and Twinset & Purls for their discussion about using Flickr; it really helped!

(I spent ages reading the CC explanations, trying to make sure ‘I got it’- seriously, if anyone notices that I’ve applied the license instructions incorrectly: TELL ME, and I’ll remove them immediately. It’s stupidity, not an attempt to infringe anyone’s copyright. I found it a real minefield, particularly when you factor the Getty license into the equation.)

Finally, the Cool Extra Thing. And what a thang. I wish I had a better photo to use, but I had to make do. That’s not to say the results aren’t hysterical (or indeed freaky…)

Thank you for introducing me to PhotoFunia. Love it!

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