Friday, 27 February 2015

Making an Impact with Metadata on Social Media

At the beginning of September 2014 I worked up the courage to present at my first national conference - CILIP CIG 2014. The theme of Metadata - Making an Impact really appealed to me (and not just because I was on the conference organising committee!). I decided to talk about a successful work project involving a Pinterest board which I created for the Cambridge Library Science Collection. The slides for my talk are included below together with the write up I produced for the Catalogue and Index journal. The latter is reproduced here with the kind permission of CILIP CIG.

We all know that cataloguers produce great quality metadata but we also know that our users seldom turn to the library catalogue as their first, or even second, source of information. However many users are active on social media on a regular basis, keeping in touch with their peers and their institutions. Libraries are taking advantage of this by promoting themselves and their collections on various social sites. This article will discuss the use of the website Pinterest to promote the Library Science Collection at Cambridge University Library. Pinterest is an online pinboard where users can share images of interest with their followers and at Cambridge we use this to share our metadata in visual form.

The Library Science Collection at Cambridge is a result of the library’s legal deposit status. This dedicated professional collection is made up of approximately 2000 items, mainly monographs and journals but also a growing ebook collection. After taking over the management of the collection one of my key goals was to advertise this valuable professional resource to both Cambridge librarians and the wider information world. The collection now has an established social media presence including a blog, Twitter account and Pinterest site.

Rise of the visual web
Pinterest has become increasingly popular in the last few years as part of the phenomenon of the visual web. Visual websites are overtaking text based sites as the main method of communication on social media. In recent years sites such as Instagram and Snapchat have launched to huge acclaim and almost instant popularity. Analysts claim that we are moving away from a text based web towards something more visual and people are designing image based websites as a way to tap into this trend. You need look no further than some of the newer templates on popular sites such as Wordpress to see where this trend is taking hold. Couple this with the general decrease in people's attention spans and it becomes clear that websites now need something different to draw users in and engage them with the content. In addition to this, image based sites offer a better display on mobile devices. Studies show that people are accessing increasingly large amounts of information on devices such as smartphones and tablets which may have problems with text based sites. As information providers we need to be aware of this when designing our web presence.

The visual web has several advantages over its text-based counterpart. Think back to a time when you have done a web search only to be confronted with one page full of densely packed text and another page full of images. There you can start to see how difficult text is to absorb quickly whereas carefully chosen images can make an almost instant impact.

Using Pinterest at Cambridge
So how can we use this knowledge of the visual web to make our metadata more discoverable?

As mentioned, Pinterest is a collection of online pinboards where users can upload, link to and share images which then link back to content. An example of a Pinterest board can be seen below:

Visitors to the site can browse the images and then click through to visit the original content such as a blog post or news item. Libraries can use the same mechanism to share their metadata with users in a visual form.

Currently at Cambridge we are using Pinterest to create an online new books display. Cover images of the books are displayed on our pin board and used can access the catalogue record by clicking on the image. This has obvious benefits over the traditional new books display still used by traditional libraries. With an online display the physical books are still accessible for use so users are not restricted from accessing the actual material. Users no longer need to be in the library building to see what has been added to the collection, opening it to a wider professional audience. Another advantage is the sites simplicity for both librarian and user. It is easy to navigate, even for those new to the format and does not require registration to browse. The images posted display in online image searches, further aiding is discoverability.

Fig. 1
Constructing a Pinterest board is a simple process. Obviously the first thing you need to do to set up a page is register for an account. Before you do this it is worth finding out if your institution already has an existing account which you can join as this can help to grow an audience for your site. Accounts can have multiple boards on a variety of subjects. Each individual image on these boards is known as a 'pin'. Pins can be uploaded from a computer or taken directly from a website. The easiest way to do this is to install Pinterest's Pin It browser extension (Fig 1). This extension is available for most browsers trombone from the Pinterest homepage and selects images with one click.

The crucial component of a Pinterest site is to link the image back to the content you wish to share, in the case of Cambridge this would be the metadata of the book represented by its cover image. When you pin an image from the Internet Pinterest automatically links back to the original content. As we use Library Search at Cambridge, Pinterest links to the main catalogue interface as a default. A small amount of editing is required to make sure that cover images link back to the stable URL of the item rather than the main homepage of the catalogue. This is achieved by using the Pinterest edit interface. If you select the small pen symbol (Fig. 2) on the pin this takes you to an edit screen where you can make the necessary changes to the source URL.

Fig. 2
As the image is uploaded Pinterest will provide a short description in the description box (Fig. 3). In order to increase metadata exposure, at Cambridge we expand on this to include the basic bibliographic details of the book - full title, author and classmark. This provides a quick reference to users without having to click through to the catalogue, although this is still the main aim of the project. When the pin in complete it functions as a visual link to the catalogue.

Fig. 3

The Library Science Pinterest board has been extremely popular, gaining nearly four hundred followers in the first few hours after its launch. Since then follower numbers have continued to climb and engagement via likes and shares has been positive. Individual pins and whole boards can be also be promoted easily. For a site which requires minimal work to produce this is an excellent outcome which has helped to promote the visibility of both the collection and its metadata.

Like many other image sharing sites, Pinterest has been the subject of some copyright discussion. It goes without saying that libraries using Pinterest need to be mindful of copyright, particularly when using cover art as these are of course copyrighted works in their own right.

Prior to starting the Pinterest project at Cambridge we consulted the University Copyright Department who cleared us to use images that were available through our catalogue interface as long as they linked back to the source of the image - the catalogue record. Not all titles in Library Search have cover images so unfortunately we cannot include images for these unless we seek individual permission from the copyright holders. We decided early on in the project that this was not practical and so do not include these books on our board.

If you cannot obtain clearance from your institution’s copyright department or are in any way unsure if you can use the images then the safest policy is to avoid using them.

Other uses for Pinterest
Even if pinning cover images is not an option for your library there are alternative ways of using Pinterest to make your metadata more discoverable online.

Topic and resource boards are easy to assemble and can make a great visual impact. Using images you have either created yourself or found an appropriate Creative Commons license for  you can create eye-catching pins which you can then link back to your metadata. Topic boards focus on a theme and can take advantage of popular news stories such as the anniversary of the First World War. Resource boards use a similar approach but centre around popular academic topics such as How to write an essay. Using Pinterest in this way you can create a graphic reading list of items and ensure that your metadata is noticed.

Top pinning tips
If you do decide to pursue Pinterest there are some important points to bear in mind.  As with other social sites Pinterest allows account holders to write short biographies of themselves or their institution. In addition there is a chance to compose a short description for each board. Write these carefully and try to include relevant keywords to increase discoverability. Choose or create your images with care to create the maximum impact on both Pinterest and the Internet in general. The aim is to make people stop and look in an environment which is increasingly becoming image dependent.

Pinning images with links to our metadata has proved hugely popular at Cambridge. It provides us with a way to tap into the trend for the visual web using metadata - something not traditionally thought of as picturesque. Hopefully this helps us to make more of an impact with our metadata on social media.

Edited to add: Since this article was first published Pinterest have become more forceful in trying to get you to sign in/up to view pins. I think this is a real shame as allowing non-members easy access was one of the biggest selling points of Pinterest for me.

Originally published: Catalogue and Index, November 2014.

Monday, 2 February 2015

How To ... Write a Conference Proposal

Presenting at a conference can be a great way to gain some professional experience and share your ideas with your colleagues. Aside from the obvious hurdles of a fear of public speaking and actually giving the presentation there is something else to overcome first - writing the conference proposal!

Following on from my post on writing book reviews I thought I would gather some thoughts on how to write a conference proposal. I don't claim to be an expert but this a collection of tips I gathered when I wrote my first (successful) conference proposal last year. I hope you find some of them helpful:
  • take the time time to actually read the proposal criteria. This might sound obvious but it can be easy to miss important details in the excitement of crafting a proposal. Make sure the topic/approach you want to use is suitable for the conference in order to save yourself a lot of wasted work. Each conference has slightly different criteria so pay attention to these
  • show enthusiasm for your topic in your proposal. If you sound bored then those reading it will think this will come across in your presentation. Zzzzzz...
  • link your proposal to the themes of the conference. Look for keywords in the call for papers and use them
  • consider your audience when writing your proposal. If they're experts in the subject then assume that they know what you're talking about and don't outline the basics as this will give you less space to pitch your actual idea. Provide a brief introduction to your topic but don't talk down to people
  • don't waffle. The person/panel reviewing your proposal are likely to have many to get through so make sure they don't get bored of yours. Hiding behind big words can send up a red flag with reviewers. Focus and be concise
  • don't be too ambitious with what you want to include. All presentations have a running time which will be clearly stated in the call for papers. Chances are you could talk about your research or project for hours but you may only have time to focus on one aspect. Pick the one that most closely reflects the theme of the conference. The good news is that this can result in multiple chances to present based on one project!
  • come up with an attention grabbing title but don't forget to include a subtitle that tells people what the presentation is about. Many attendees only skim titles so make sure that they know what they're likely to attend
  • get someone to give you a second opinion, or even a third or fourth. You may understand what you mean but you also need to know that it is clear to those reading your work. You will have spent time crafting your proposal and it would be a shame to let jargon and mistakes let you down. Proofread!
  • get your proposal in on time. Much like job interviews sending a proposal in late indicates that you might not be the best person for the job
  • prepare for rejection. Chances are that this will happen more often than acceptance and you need to be realistic. If it's appropriate then ask for feedback about the decision as this can help you prepare in the future
  • keep a record of your proposals, especially the ones that don't make the cut. You will have put a lot of work in to them and you may be able to use them (with some tweaking!) in the future. As with job applications remember to tailor your proposal to the conference rather than just recycling it. People will notice and it won't reflect well on you
These are just a few tips to get people started. As always if there is something I've missed then let me know and I can add it in. Happy conferencing!

Photo: Vincent Lock via Photopin

Academic Writing Librarian - a great source for calls for papers
Writing a Successful Conference Paper Proposal
How to Write a a Paper or Conference Proposal Abstract
How to Write a Killer Conference Abstract

Monday, 19 January 2015

CakE - The Second Slice!

Last June my colleague Celine Carty and I introduced a new event to the Cambridge CPD calendar. CaKE - which stands for Cambridge Knowledge Exchange - provides a dedicated forum for library staff to feedback to their peers. Sadly not everyone gets a chance to attend all the conferences and courses they would like to and there was a real need for a way to share experiences in the Cambridge library community. CaKE provided a way to meet this need.

CaKE is intended to be very informal with short presentations, plenty of time for questions and of course networking over actual cake. This benefits attendees who are able to learn about the latest developments directly from those who attended and presenters who are able to practice their skills in an informal and supportive environment.

Due to the success of the initial event we decided to run a second event which filled up in less that 48 hours, showing that there is a definite appetite for knowledge sharing (pun intended!). We're now busily preparing the sessions, organising the venue and choosing which cakes to bake - although the famous gin and tonic cake is a must bake.

If you want to find out more about CaKE then you can visit the blog by clicking on the image below. You can also find write-ups of presentations from the first session, with those of the second session following shortly.

CaKE Blog

photo credit: Canucklibrarian via photopin cc

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Pinterest Resource Boards

As anyone who reads this blog will know I'm quite a big fan of Pinterest (although slightly less so now that they have started making people sign up to read the content. For me, not having to do this was one of the sites biggest selling points...)

I've used the site for resource boardsprofessional development tips and plain old library silliness! Below is a selection of the new boards I've been working on over the last few months. I hope some of the resources are helpful to you!

I do a lot of professional reading and I find a visual bookshelf a great way to keep track of what I've read:

Follow Claire Sewell's board Professional Reading on Pinterest.

I've been thinking about management and leadership for a while now. As I look towards the next stage of my career, management skills are going to become increasingly important. I'm finally in a (temporary) role where I can develop my skills in a practical way but I'm always on the lookout for ways to learn more. This board looks at resources on both leadership and management:

Follow Claire Sewell's board Check It Out: Leadership on Pinterest.

Like many others I'm still on the lookout for my next career move. Below is a resource board on job applications and interviews:

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 In Review

It's that time of year again when I write a short reflection on the last twelve months. 2014 has certainly been a busy one! 

I've been involved in organizing a number of projects this year, the biggest of which was the CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing Group Conference. It was a very hectic summer finalizing plans for the September conference but I learnt a lot from the experience and it has definitely honed my organisation skills. I was also involved in organizing the 2014 Libraries@Cambridge conference where I was responsible for setting up a workshop session on professional development which got some really positive feedback. Cambridge librarians are a busy bunch and this year I've helped with two major projects - Cambridge Ten Days of Twitter (an online Twitter course for librarians) and Library Help (the Cambridge version of Library DIY). Being involved in these was a great experience and illustrates the good things that can happen when librarians get together as both projects were born out of online discussions. Another online discussion I've had a lot of involvement in this year has been the regular Chartership chats on Twitter.  I found these really helpful when I was chartering so I'm glad that I found a way to pay them back a little. The event I'm most proud of this year has to be CaKE - the Cambridge Knowledge Exchange. My colleague and I created this event in response to a need among library staff to learn about conferences and events attended by their peers. I'm really happy to report that the event was a success and we're planning the second event as we speak! 

I'm not sure I'll ever conquer my fear of public speaking but I can at least do it without running from the room now! I gave a presentation on Pinterest at CILIP CIG which was terrifying (especially as a vital slide was missing!!) but gave me the confidence to take on new presentation challenges such as speaking at a Chartership and Certification event. As well as formal presentations I've worked on my public speaking skills in other ways. I now regularly lead tours on my workplace such as orientations and open day tours. Although this involves a predetermined route I do have to think on my feet which is a challenge. No one has run away from a tour yet so I must be doing something right. In October I volunteered to help out at our Freshers' Fair which was certainly an interesting experience. I think we did a good job of promoting libraries - even though we were next to the Cambridge Union Society who were advertising Robert Downey Jnr...  

2014 has also provided plenty of chances for me to practice my writing skills. As well as this blog I've written articles on the Chartership process and social media for Catalogue and Index and several book reviews. I was also asked to write an article on mobile technology for SLA Information Outlook which was very flattering and allowed me to write for an international audience. This article came about after something I tweeted during a Twitter chat which goes to show the power of Twitter!

Everything else!
One of my major achievements this year was receiving CILIP Chartership in May. I worked hard on my portfolio and was delighted when it passed. Now I have revalidation to look forward to. The other big news from this year is that I got a new job. I've moved from cataloguing to front of house as Deputy Team Leader, Reader Services Desk. I now spend my day dealing with user enquiries, admissions procedures and being the public face of one of the worlds biggest research libraries! Although this promotion is only temporary I plan to take advantage of every minute and hope that it leads to bigger things in 2015 and beyond...


Photo credit: lorislferrari via PhotoPin

Monday, 15 December 2014

The MOOC Library Degree

I'm a fan of continuing professional education (hence the title of this blog!) and I often look to courses to fill gaps in my knowledge or give me a taste of something new. MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) are one way to take courses that fit around my normal work schedule and in the past I've been something of a MOOC addict. Although they do have their downsides I think they also have many benefits if both the institution and the participant are prepared to put in the commitment needed.

Whilst flipping through a magazine I came across an article about Laurie Pickard who has created her own MBA course from MOOCS as she doesn't have access to the 'regular' course. She has documented her experiences on a blog - No Pay MBA. Whatever your opinion of the value of MOOCs her experiment certainly shows that she's able to think creatively about her continuing education.

There's been quite a lot of discussion about the value of the traditional library degree in recent years, some of which I agree with and some of which I don't. Laurie's blog has inspired me to have a go at putting together my own Library Science degree from available online courses. It covers some of the areas I think we could do with more of on library courses but I was limited to the MOOCs I could find. I should add that I've not taken all of these courses, this is just as experiment to see what I could come up with. It's also worth nothing that some of the courses below incur a charge, especially if you want a verified certificate of completion.

So below I present my version of the MOOC Library Degree:

Library specific courses
I figured that this would be a good place to start. Most of the MOOCs I've taken in the past have been directly related to library and information studies as this is closely linked to my job. The best of these was The Hyperlinked Library which looked at emerging trends in the provision of library services. The New Librarianship Master Class also looked at the future of modern librarianship whilst Library Advocacy Unshushed looked at ways in which information professionals could advocate for their services (increasingly important with the threat of budget cuts). Finally Copyright for Educators and Librarians provides a useful background to copyright legislation (with an acknowledged US bias).

Management and leadership
Management studies are a traditional part of most library courses and there are plenty of MOOCs available to help you get started. Learn the basics of people management with Managing People: Engaging Your Workforce which helps introduce you to ways to develop those you are responsible for. Entrepreneurship 101 and 102 help to develop skills around strategic thinking for leadership whilst Becoming a Successful Leader provides a way to put leadership skills into context. You can learn the art of negotiation with Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills and also brush up on your Project Management skills. General financial MOOCs are a little thin on the ground but I did find Financial Analysis and Decision Making and An Introduction to Corporate Finance. Finally an Introduction to Psychology course helps with the management of both staff and service users.

This is a very useful skill, especially for services which often need their own unique marketing approach.  An Introduction to Marketing provides a basic introduction whilst Digital Marketing: Challenges and Insights looks at the increase in online marketing. Information services need to develop a brand like any other service - The Secret Power of Brands explains the psychology of brands and brand management and Projecting Your Brand Through New Media shows how to use this online.

Teaching skills are frequently asked for in job specifications. These skills are best developed in practical ways but courses provide useful theory and background. There are courses specifically about teaching such as The Virtual Teacher Program and The Art of Teaching as well as those which focus on associated skills such as Introduction to Public Speaking. Design and Development of Education Technology links to this by providing an insight into the new technologies used to deliver user education.

Technological skills
The role of the information professional is changing rapidly and part of this involves keeping up with technology. Programming skills are much in demand and this is reflected in the number of MOOCs available on the topic. Begin Programming: Build Your First Mobile Game, Introduction to Programming with Java and A Taste of Python Programming all help to fill the gap. Building Mobile Experiences talks participants through creating an app, increasingly important as more and more people are accessing information services on smartphones and tablets. The use of data is also a popular MOOC subject with Coursera devoting a specialization to Data Science.

Job application skills
Finally any degree course should prepare you to get a job upon completion. Whilst not library specific I found the How to Succeed courses from the University of Sheffield useful for picking up tips on both Writing Applications and Interviews.

I'm not sure when people would find the time to take all of those courses but I hope I've at least given readers something to think about. The main point of this post is not to encourage people to ditch the traditional degree but to illustrate that there are many ways to fill gaps in your knowledge or develop a new skill. Thanks to Laurie Pickard and her No Pay MBA idea for inspiring this post and encouraging me to learn about some new MOOCs which I can use to plug my own knowledge gaps.

Photo credit: dumfster via Photopin