Friday 18 December 2015

Research Ambassadors Programme

As some people will know I recently moved to a new role within the Office of Scholarly Communication at Cambridge (further blog posts on that in the new year). One of my first priorities has been to manage the Research Ambassadors Programme which aims to encourage staff from across the libraries to get involved in teaching and training other staff and users. I have taken part in the Programme as a participant and am really looking forward to seeing it from a new perspective. 

In the meantime I have written a guest post on our department blog on the Programme and there is also a corresponding view from the outside. If you are interested in reading about the Programme then start here (see if you can spot me in the photo) and I will post more in 2016!

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Have an Appy Christmas!

Because I am the master of procrastination I have spent the last few weeks experimenting with creating an interactive Advent calendar to showcase a number of apps that I've found useful. Just click on the window for that day - no cheating and looking ahead!- to see the featured app. It's a small bit of silliness for Christmas (but that's what it's all about at this time of year isn't it?). 

The Appy Advent Calendar can be found here.

Photo: Tina D via Flickr

Thursday 26 November 2015

A New Chapter

It's been a roller-coaster few weeks for me. My secondment to Reader Services ended and I returned to the English Cataloguing Department in a lower grade to the one I left which was, needless to say, demoralising. I then successfully interviewed for a new job in a different Library department.

On Monday I move to the Office of Scholarly Communication here at Cambridge to work as Research Skills Coordinator, a new role that I will be able to really make my own and which fulfils a lot of my professional goals. I'm beyond excited to start my new role (not least as this is the first full time permanent job I will ever have held!) but it's also a time tinged with a little bit of sadness. I am leaving behind cataloguing as a day job which will be a big change for me. I have spent most of my career working in a cataloguing role and it will be different to think that I won't be going back to it at some point. Of course you can never say never but I think the time has come for me to move on.

A few years ago I was as set as I could be on making cataloguing my niche in the profession and couldn't imagine doing anything else. To some this may seem like a boring ambition but I think it's a truly exciting time for the profession with the advent of initiatives such as Linked Data and BIBFRAME. I will still be involved with the CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing Group for as long as they will have me so I will be able to keep my hand in that way and I think many of the new developments will tie into my own work. A good thing about all this change is that it will hopefully mean more blogging, something I haven't had much time to do recently! This will be a new area for me professionally as well as an exciting direction for the profession and I'm keen to find out all I can about it.

What I have basically realised is that change doesn't have to be scary. People change and adapt over time and what you really want today might not be what you want in a year. My advice to all new (and maybe even not so new) professionals is to keep your options open and don't pin yourself down to only one part of the information industry. There are a lot of facets to the profession so go out and explore them - you never know what you might find!

photo credit: Light Reading via photopin (license)

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Reaching Out

One of the highlights of my secondment to the Reader Services division has been the chance to get actively involved in outreach activities. I've done many tours and volunteered at a lot of events but this year I bit the bullet and decided to organise my own event. 

We have many outreach opportunities in Cambridge including the Festival of Ideas which was established in 2008. The festival sets out to challenge ideas around a particular theme which this year was Power and Resistance. This seemed like a good fit for the work I wanted to do to show off the Library's collection of World War I propaganda posters. Being a history graduate propaganda has always been a subject of interest to me and I think it has enormous relevance to life today.

My event was entitled Patriotism and Pin-Ups to reflect both the content and theme of the display. In addition to posters I managed to find a selection of war propaganda material from the collection. Amongst the items on display were:
  • the Illustrated War News and the War Pictorial to represent the fact that World War I was one of the most widely photographed conflicts. It was the first war where images could be made readily available to an eager public back home, something we take for granted today
  • Nursery Rhymes for Fighting Times. This was the most popular item in the display as it was jarring to see such blatant propaganda aimed at young children.
  • the Martyrdom of Nurse Cavell explored the story of this heroic nurse who was executed as a traitor for helping wounded soldiers escape.
  • the Win the War Cookery Book which claimed that if the people of Britain stopped eating so much bread then the war would be won in no time! It also advocated chewing bread slowly to make it taste more like cake...
Putting together the exhibition was a great way for me to get deeply involved in a subject and do some historical research. It was also a fantastic way to show-off a little seen part of the collection to the public. I couldn't include all of the posters I wanted to for space reasons but it was great to be able to show what I could and it got a lot of people talking.

I also experimented with Vine to create videos of the material on display. I've been hearing a lot about the app recently and how it can be used to create visuals of tutorials or exhibitions so I wanted to give it a try. Vine allows you to create short, seven second videos that play on a continuous loop and can be shared with others on the usual social networks. The app was simple to install on my tablet and I was making videos in minutes! My results are shown below:

This was the first time I had developed an outreach event from start to finish and many lessons were learnt. My top piece of advice would be to always leave yourself more time than you think you will need. Life gets in the way sometimes and things like writing captions will always take you longer than you think! If you are able to participate in something like this then my advice would to be to go for it. We are lucky in Cambridge as there are so many opportunities to get involved but if that isn't the case where you are then why not launch something? It doesn't have to be expensive or time consuming - it could just be an online display. The important thing is that you get your material out there and share it with interested people. You never know what might come of it! 

Monday 2 November 2015

Going Beyond the Numbers: Measuring the Impact of Social Media Marketing in Your Library

Last month I presented the results of my dissertation research at the CILIP Multimedia Information Technology Group Conference in Sheffield. It was my first time at the conference and it was a great couple of days where I learnt a lot. It was also my first time presenting to a group who had actively chosen to attend my presentation and it was lovely to see so many people turn up. I had a very engaged audience who asked a lot of questions, even though they wanted to get out and have their lunch!

For those interested my presentation is below. I experimented with using Canva to create a presentation which had positives and negatives so I would be interested to know how others find it.

The full dissertation on which this presentation is based can be found here.

Friday 24 July 2015

LibCAMp: A Cambridge Unconference

People who follow me on Twitter may have recently seen me frantically tweeting about something called #camlibcamp. This was the first Cambridge library staff unconference and was held this week at the Alison Richard Building in central Cambridge.

We are lucky in Cambridge as every year part of the University Library team organise a conference for staff in January. As well as being something to perk you up just after Christmas it provides a great way to meet new people and share new ideas. Circumstances and busy work schedules for the organisers meant that there was no official conference held this year so a group of us decided to do something about it. LibCAMp was born!

I've been to an unconference before but never organised one so it's been a bit of a learning curve. There were nearly sixty attendees in all which exceeded our expectations and showed that there is a real appetite for this kind of discussion. Below are a few of the lessons learnt during the planning process:
  • plan for more people than you think will come. We thought we would only get about thirty attendees at best but we were overwhelmed by the response. The event sold out in two days but luckily we had some wait-list spaces available which we could release
  • be flexible and listen to other people's ideas when planning. You might have a vision of how you think everything should go but you need to be open to the experiences of others. Some of our best ideas came from someone saying, "how about doing it this way?" so it's important not to discount anything during the planning stage
  • collect feedback soon after the event whilst it's still fresh in the minds of participants. We are not sure at the moment if there will be a rerun of LibCAMp but if there is we have some ideas to encorporate. We asked participants to rate the event but also asked them what was they one thing we could do better. This has given us some valuable ideas for any future events we might run
  • try not to be too hard on yourself when things go wrong. I have a tendency to do this personally so I'm really trying hard to focus on everything that went right as opposed to the fact that I forgot to mention a few things
Overall I think LibCAMp was a success. There were things we could have done better but if we had done everything perfectly it wouldn't have been much of a learning experience! People are still tweeting and blogging about the event so we must have made some sort of impression. The main lesson I've taken away from this is that if you see a gap for an event, rather than complaining about it why not try doing something about it? You might surprise yourself at what you can achieve. 

Wednesday 8 July 2015

CILIP Leadership Programme - Liverpool, July 2015

Recently I was lucky enough to be accepted to the CILIP Leadership Programme. This is a new programme which CILIP are piloting in 2015-16 in order to increase the leadership capacity within the profession and is based on similar models offered by other associations. The programme will involve face to face meetings, online learning and group project work. The launch of the programme was held last week just before the CILIP Conference in Liverpool.

There are twenty-one participants in all and I was pleased to see a large range of sectors represented. Meeting face to face in this way helped to break the ice and it was really interesting to hear about what people did and what they were hoping to get out of the programme. Quite a few of the participants were there for the same reason as me - to develop confidence in their leadership skills - but it was also reassuring to hear other people's reasons for taking part. It reinforced the idea that leaders can come from anywhere and there is no one special skill that people are born with.

This was something that we discussed at length. After a noisy getting to know you exercise where we shattered the illusion that librarians are quiet we discussed what makes an effective leader. There were a lot of common themes suggested such as someone who is inspiring, approachable and consistent. This very much fits with my idea of a leader but it was interesting to hear what others thought. For example some thought that leaders were those that were good at succession planning to ensure the future of their organisation, something which had not really occurred to me before. We also had a group discussion on how leaders are made. Out of all the options presented I was drawn to the social script option which claims that leaders arise when the situation requires them. This is very much how I have seen my own leadership journey as I never considered myself a leader but like to think I can step up when needed.

We also looked at different leadership styles and their associated advantages and disadvantages. This is something I was quite familiar with through my work on the ILM Leadership Course but it was useful to have the discussion in a library context. I think that all leaders have a tendency towards a particular style but most people are able to adapt it to different situations (known as situational leadership). Having all the styles outlined for me highlighted the importance of this type of training to all leaders as you may not fully realise the disadvantages of your natural approach or indeed the advantages of other approaches. For example I think the term autocratic conjure up certain negative images but in a crisis situation this type of leadership can be very useful.

The next session was a chance for several key members of CILIP to share their own leadership stories. CILIP CEO Nick Poole never set out to become a leader. At the start of his career he made use of every opportunity to talk to leaders about what they did and why they did it. He built his skill set both through work and by taking CPD opportunities such as committee work. Nick also stressed the importance of work/life balance, something I think even the best of us forget at times. CILIP President Jan Parry spoke of how drama lessons helped her to overcome a childhood stammer. To me this was an important lesson in thinking outside the box to solve problems and gain valuable experiences. As an adult Jan was involved in local politics and learnt a lot from observing those around her, something which seemed to be a key theme from all of the talks. Finally Simon Edwards (Director of Professional Services at CILIP) spoke about imposter syndrome, something I know I’ve struggled with. I was also really pleased to hear his shout out to cataloguers! Simon spoke of an everyday kind of leadership. We cope with change and difficult circumstances every day and we shouldn’t underestimate how these feed into leadership potential. He advised creating a career map to show what you have done and what you want to do. This is something I plan to do as I think it will help to consolidate my past (and hopefully future) achievements. At lunch there was another opportunity to observe leadership in action as we were joined by the CILIP Board.

The last part of the day involved the initial planning of our group projects. These will be a key component of the programme and a chance to put theory into action. I am involved in looking at the Member Network CPD offer. As I’m very interested in CPD this project really appeals to me but I think it will also be a chance to test myself. As well as challenging myself with aspects of the project it will force me to think beyond what I consider CPD and look at the point of view of others. I’m really looking forward to getting started!

The next time all the participants will meet face to face is at CILIP HQ in November. In between there are lots of opportunities to interact online as well as additional training scheduled in the form of webinars and online chats. I’m really excited to be involved in the inaugural year of this programme and I hope that my input can help shape it for many years to come. So far it has really rejuvenated me professionally so I’m looking forward to seeing how much further it can take me.

Photo credits: 

Monday 6 July 2015

CILIP Conference 2015

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the annual CILIP Conference in the stunning St. George's Hall in Liverpool. I've attended the conference only once before when it was still Umbrella and enjoyed the experience but CILIP seemed to have upped their game even further with the new annual conference (and especially the conference drinks reception during which we had the run of the Museum of Liverpool). I've compiled some thoughts on the event below and whilst I've tried to make it as short as I can there were many points that I wanted to touch on. The conference had four main themes:
  • Information management
  • Information literacy and digital inclusion
  • Demonstrating value
  • Digital futures and technology

Having taken the New Librarianship Masterclass I was already familiar with a lot of the ideas of the first speaker - R. David Lankes. A couple of the things he talked about stuck with me and seemed to provide a recurring theme for many of the speeches over the next two days. Lankes spoke about the need for librarians to 'control the narrative' about libraries and he suggested that we do this through being present, whether that is out in our communities or sitting at the table when decisions are made about our service. Most librarians I know do this in some way but its important to be reminded of it. I know that I sometimes shy away from promoting what I have done and this is something I need to improve on. Luckily the conference gave me a lot of ideas on how to do this. 

This theme was repeated by Stuart Hamilton, the Deputy Secretary General of IFLA, who discussed the need to talk about libraries in the language of the policy makers. Get invited in to the big discussions and make your case for the importance of your service. Hamilton outlined how access to information supports the development of countries and communities and called on those in the information profession to help protect it. A similar call was issued by Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty who talked about the importance of human rights. She considered access to information as a basic human right and tasked the information profession with helping to defend it. Asked to name the one most important thing that the profession could do she asked us to make sure that people had access to the Human Rights Act. There is a lot of misinformation about the Act in the press and the only way to truly make an informed decision is to read it. Chakrabarti also discussed the differences between secrecy and privacy. The innocent may have nothing to fear when it comes to people prying into our lives but that doesn't mean there is anything wrong with a desire for privacy. Author Cory Doctorow spoke about the same thing and took issue with the assumption that secrecy is a key component of security.

There was also an insight from Barbara Schack into the fascinating Ideas Box project which provides access to information and information spaces in crisis situations. Each box contains the tools to create a local network for online access as well as books and tablets. This project links back to the sessions mentioned above where librarians were called on to preserve access to information. Joseph O'Leary from Full Fact outlined the work of his service which provides fact checking in situations such as the recent election. This service allows people to make informed decisions without the spin.

The final keynote came from Erwin James, a columnist at the Guardian and former prisoner. He gave a very moving speech about his experiences of using a prison library and how this helped in his rehabilitation. He painted an honest picture of life behind bars and how something seemingly as small as a book from the library can help you overcome your demons. I've always found talks about prison libraries fascinating as it is so far removed from anything I have experience of. Having the talk from the point of view of a prisoner rather than a librarian certainly gave me some food for thought. 

Demonstrating impact
This was the strand I attended most as it's a major professional interest of mine. From Output to Impact was a chance to put together a toolkit for measuring the impact of an activity or service that we provide. Tying in with the keynotes on how librarians add value Carolyn Rankin and Sue Reynolds discussed the different ways in which we can add that something extra for our users. The presenters highlighted the need for qualitative information to highlight impact which I was relieved to see as I believe numbers only tell you part of the story. Andy Ryan of CityRead London gave a very passionate talk on her work to encourage more people to read by creating an immersive experience. Again the theme of community was mentioned as the programme helps to get the community reading together. Mary Dunne talked about Communicating your Value in a Way That Works. Linking back to the keynote delivered by Lankes she talked of changing the conversation around libraries by including value propositions. These short statements profile key member groups such as users or stakeholders and target the things they value. For example you might show how the library links to management strategies or how it fulfills a key user need. The trick is to keep these statements short and focused, much like an elevator pitch. Dunne finished by reminding us that what we do is just a mechanism to do our jobs. It makes more of an impact to say why.

Also launched at the conference was the CILIP Impact Toolkit. Further information can be found here

Information management
Elisabeth Goodman and John Ridell talked about How to Add Value to your Organisation as a Knowledge Facilitator. The benefits outlined were both organisational and personal and included creating a culture of innovation and enhancing the CPD of the knowledge facilitator. As readers of this blog will know I am always in favor of anything that enhances your CPD! By Making the Right Connections Denise Carter outlined information professionals can engage stakeholders. Carter claimed that preparation is the key to success - if you want people to come along with you then you have to know where you are going. Think of engaging with your stakeholders as a marketing campaign and plan it accordingly including staff time and other resources needed. She also cautioned us not to over-engage with our targets. You don't want to come across as too pushy.

Information literacy and digital inclusion
Adam Edwards and Vanessa Hill gave an engaging Abba themed presentation on methods of teaching information literacy. There are several issues with trying to provide effective information literacy teaching such as a lack of embedding and the bad timing of some sessions. Edwards and Hill argued that librarians often try to teach three to five times as much information as their students can cope with. I know that I've had this experience on library inductions - trying to cram everything in as you don't know if/when you will see the students again. To solve this problem the presenters have gone back to basics and used a game approach to encourage their students to learn. These social activities allow peer learning to take place, something which the presenters have found success with. Although this method might not appeal to all it is certainly something to consider as an alternate approach. We tried out one of the games in the session and it made for some lively discussion. Further information and instructions can be found here.

Digital futures and technology
I'm a big fan of MOOCs so I was really interested to hear about Resisting the MOOC Stampede. Anthea Sutton and Helen Buckley Woods talked about their project which brings small scale web CPD courses to librarians. Numbers are limited to 30-49 participants and focus on various professional topics such as customer care and measuring impact. These smaller coursed have several advantages over huge MOOCs such as creating a tight knit community and the fact that instructors can provide detailed feedback to all participants. Completion rates of the courses average at 97% and is measured by the completion of an e-portfolio. There is also a reflective writing element - no doubt something many CILIP members are familiar with! Further information on the FOLIO courses can be found here.

Leo Appleton and Andy Tattersall looked at how librarians can harness the power of social media. They told us that social media is constantly developing and its important to keep on top of it. Although library use of social media has traditionally been limited to advertising the service the presenters outlined new uses such as an online enquiry service. For this reason it is important that we keep checking our online presence. If we have a presence on sites then our users will find it. They finished by discussing the importance of altmetrics and how social media is used for research. Academics have to measure impact and this can increasingly be done through measuring their online presence, for example the number of Mendeley reads an article has had. Although these altmetrics don't replace traditional measures they can be used as an interesting complement. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the conference and came away with lots of ideas to try. Although it was a very full few days I managed to meet lots of people I've only known via Twitter. As always with these conferences the most important chats happen over tea and this was no exception. I would encourage anyone who has a chance to attend another conference to give it a go - you will regret it far more if you don't!

Wednesday 24 June 2015

CILIP Leadership Programme - Part Two

As I mentioned in a previous post I have recently been accepted to the new CILIP Leadership Programme. I'm really looking forward to getting starting and meeting my new cohort for the first time (and not just on Twitter!).

My participation in the scheme wouldn't have been possible without the generosity of the CILIP Information Literacy Group who have sponsored me to attend the programme. I just want to say a huge thank you to them for giving me this opportunity. They asked me to put together some thoughts on what I'm hoping to get out of the programme and these have just appeared on their blog. If you would like to read more then click on the image below:

Monday 22 June 2015

Teach the Teacher - Part One

This is part one in a short series of blog posts about the Level 3 Award in Education and Training I am currently working on.
It's been an ambition of mine for a couple of years now to do some sort of teaching course. I do a lot of formal and informal teaching in my role and I wanted to support this with a recognised qualification - something concrete to include on the CV so potential employers know that I have a grounding in theory as well as practical teaching skills. I looked at various levels of course before I decided that my needs would be best met with a Level 3 Award in Education and Training.

The L3 Award was brought in in 2013 to replace the old PTTLS course. It provides an introduction to teaching including how to plan, deliver and assess courses. The Award can be used as the foundation for further learning or as a qualification in its own right. It consists of three units which have short, written assignments and a micro-teach (15 minutes) which needs to be completed in front of an audience. The course ticked a lot of the boxes for what I wanted to get out of a teaching qualification so I decided to explore further.

Finding a provider for the course proved tricky. Because of my current role and various other commitments I decided that face-to-face classes were not really an option so looked into distance learning providers. This proved easier said than done as not many offer the new course online yet and the ones who do had decidedly unprofessional looking websites that did little to encourage me to part with my money! Prices also seemed to vary widely but I did some research and found out what the rough recommended price of the course was which helped me to judge. I did eventually find a provider and have just started taking the course with TrainAid. Under their model I complete the lecture and written assignment part of the course online and then attend a face-to-face session to deliver my micro-teach. A short introduction to the course can be found in the video below:

So far I'm finding the material really interesting and I think it will help me as I do more teaching in the future. If you are interested in getting a flavour of the course then check out the TrainAid Youtube channel which hosts their lecture content and is available to all.

I'll be posting further updates as I work through each of the three modules and as well as some final reflections. If anyone has any tips that they have learnt from taking similar courses I would love to hear them so feel free to add them in the comments section below.

photo credit: Apple and water via photopin (license)

Monday 8 June 2015

CILIP Leadership Programme

As readers of this blog will know I am always keen to develop my skills and learn new things. A few months ago I applied for a place on the CILIP Leadership Programme and I was recently told that I was successful. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of the CILIP Infomation Literacy Group I will be attending the launch of the programme at the CILIP Conference in  July.

I have been working on my leadership skills for a number of years now and taking part in this programme will help me to consolidate what I have learnt as well as develop some new skills. There are 21 people taking part in the programme from a range of backgrounds so it will be interesting to compare knowledge and experiences with them. 

Currently I am on temporary secondment to our Reader Services Department which is a wonderful experience but in a few months I will be back to cataloguing full time. This specialism perhaps more than most is undergoing a period of substantial change and solid leadership will be important to make sure that valuable skills are not lost. Hopefully I can help with this in some small way by completing this programme and sharing the knowledge I gain with the wider community. 

I will try and blog what I can of the process over the coming year so stay tuned for further updates. I will also be tweeting about my experiences so follow the #cilipleadership hashtag.

photo credit: IMG_8410 via photopin (license)

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Don't Worry, Be (Chartership) App-y

During the last Chartership chat some people suggested using iDoneThis as a way to record your CPD and this made me think about other apps and websites that could be useful. Below is a very basic infographic showing some of my top recommendations. If you have any other suggestions of apps/sites you have found useful please feel free to share them in the comments.

Saturday 2 May 2015

#Chartership Chat - 23/4/15

Below is the Storify of the latest Chartership chat. The theme of this chat was Getting Started, either at the beginning of the professional registration process or after a break.

Monday 6 April 2015

Having Your CaKE

The CAmbridge Knowledge Exchange project is something I've talked about a lot and one of my biggest professional achievements of the last year. I was recently asked to write an article about it for the CILIP East newsletter. If you're interested in learning more about how we planned CaKE, the lessons learned and where we go from here, the article can be found in the latest edition of Sunrise.

Photo credit: Ayca Wilson via Photopin (license

Tuesday 31 March 2015

#Chartership Chat - 30/3/15

Below is the Storify for the latest Chartership chat. These chats provide a way for CILIP professional registration candidates at all levels to get together online and discuss problems or raise questions in a supportive environment.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Moving Into Management

I've written before about my desire to go into management and the difficulties I've had getting there. In the last couple of months I've been lucky enough to get a (temporary) promotion to a management role and complete some long awaited training with the ILM. My current role is Deputy Team Leader at the Reader Services Desk at Cambridge University Library and I have daily management responsibility for ten staff who work on the main issue desk at the library. We manage the circulation of materials, the admissions process and assist the roughly one thousand people that come into the library everyday. It's been a steep learning curve but I'm really enjoying the challenge. Management is not something I've always aspired to and if you has asked me a few years ago where I saw myself in the future the answer would definitely not have been managing people! However this has changed over the past couple of years and now seems like a natural next step in my career.

When I saw that CILIP ARLG Eastern was hosting an event called Moving Into Management I signed up as it was exactly the sort of day where I could pick up a few tips. Unfortunately one of the scheduled speakers became ill a couple of days before the event and I was asked to fill in with a short presentation (which can be found below).

One of the things I was asked to talk about was the change involved with moving from being managed to being a manager. This is something I've struggled to get my head around since starting my new position so I was glad of the opportunity to reflect on my experiences. I wanted to expand a little bit on this area in this post.

In my previous role I actively managed people but not in a way that was formally recognized. Working as a Senior Library Assistant meant that I was the first port of call for questions from junior staff in the department. I also provided a lot of mentoring advice - something which I really enjoyed. When my manager(s) were away I often stepped in if there were any problems, such as something that needed to be done urgently for another department. Of course there were some things that were beyond my grade but I pitched in where I could. I really enjoyed doing this as I saw it as good training for future roles (although it was beyond frustrating not to be recognized for it!). 

This was what I would call the 'fun' part of management - the bit that lets you practice management skills but means that you don't have any actual responsibility. If something went wrong then I didn't have to step in and solve it and if there was a tough question I could just pass it off to someone higher up. When I moved into a management role this all became my actual responsibility and that was a big change for me. I'm responsible for ensuring that things get done, that my staff are happy in their work and that any problems get sorted out quickly with the minimum of fuss. Having experienced some bad management from other people in the past has made getting this balance right very important to me.

One thing I've not given new managers enough credit for in the past is the fact that they are essentially learning two jobs at the same time. This is especially true if they have moved into a new workplace or department. I've moved from a back office role to a front facing role and am having to learn how to operate our circulation system, the admissions categories for the library and about a million other tiny procedures which make up my new job. At the same time I'm learning how to be a manager and building on the skills I developed in my previous role. I came to the realization fairly quickly that I just had to get on with it and learn what I could. If you have a new boss in this situation then cut them some slack, they're trying their best. And if you are the boss then give yourself some credit because this is a lot of pressure and you're coping!

On a related note I just wanted to say that if you are feeling overwhelmed there are places you can turn to for help. Even managers have managers so make use of them. Good managers will sit down with you and see how you're getting on so use this opportunity to ask questions and get some advice. There will also be others out there in the same situation so make use of social media and professional associations to get in contact with them. Finally there may be management training available, either generic or specific to your organisation. I've just completed the ILM Level Three Award and this has given me some great tips to build on. There is also plenty of information available in books and online so get reading. Even if it only confirms that what you're doing is right it will increase your confidence.

Even if you think that management isn't for you it wouldn't hurt to brush up on your knowledge of it. You may change your mind in future or the future may change it for you. At the very least it may give you some insight into why you boss is the way they are!

Image credit: Peter Miller via Flickr

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.