Designing a Presidential Library made easy…

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Scott Carlson, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education: Chronicle Review, has found a novel and cheap solution to the problem of commissioning and choosing library designs… ask readers for entries on the back of an envelope.

In this case the “competition” aims to find a suitable design for the George W. Bush Presidential Library – take a look at the results!

Sadly there isn’t a library shaped like a giant chimp, but I am rather partial to the “Hole in the Ground” design.

Facebook in libraries… day 2

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A very brief post following up on yesterday’s post, just to document a few ups and downs in the process of developing a facebook page for my library…

Ups:

  • Lots of good UK and North American examples of library facebook pages to take inspiration from
  • Plenty of freely available widgets to turn to the library’s advantage such as a virtual bookshelf (showing new acquisitions – this is even RSS fed), RSS feed display tools, as well as COPAC, WorldCat and JSTOR search widgets
  • The potential to adapt functions that will be familiar to most facebook users in novel ways (e.g. using a photo album with annotated comments as a virtual library tour and guide to resources)

Downs:

  • The inability to use some widgets on developer pages – this is very annoying!
  • The fact that I have to develop the page through my own personal account
  • My general paranoia about security and sharing my own details with widget developers… but that’s my problem not facebook’s 😉

I’m looking forward to carrying on working on this tomorrow 🙂

Libraries on Facebook

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I’m a fan of the social networking site Facebook, I can’t deny it.  It has helped me to get in tough with loads of people who, for one reason or another, I had grown apart from.  It lets me keep track of what my friends are up to, and even reminded me of the delights of playing Scrabble…

…and yet, despite lots of talk of social networking and libraries I have yet to build a Facebook page for my  own library.  Reasons for this are plentiful:

  • Time – as a solo librarian I have lots of other responsibilities, and additional “projects” such as this are always at risk of being put on the back-burner
  • User demographics – the profession I work for has a predominant make-up of middle-aged and over… would a Facebook group get any use?
  • Added value? – would a Facebook page really provide extra value for library users?  Would it be a valuable use of my time on their behalf?

I could go on…

However, that’s all about to change.  I’ve bitten the bullet and started to build a library page.  So, why the change of heart?   Well, the biggest factor is library users.  Whilst digging around on Facebook I found that some members of my organisation had started their own social group, and it had a reasonable number of (young) members.  This got me thinking about librarianship and the importance of horizon scanning and early adoption of new technologies.

Despite the current makeup of my organisation’s membership, the future will inevitably bring new blood, wanting new services and diversity of information provision.  The new generation will expect their organisation to move with them, and to deliver information in the ways they expect, not just sticking with the “tried and tested” methods because that is what has always been done.

A facebook page will allow the promotion of the Library and events that I am running (even offeringthe possibility of booking management made easy),  will allow me to provide regular updates of new resources available to members in real time (rather than just through the bi-monthly organisational publication) and will also allow new lines of communication to be opened between the Library and the organisation’s members – perhaps even members who would not be reached by more traditional methods.

I don’t expect this to be an instant success – it will take plenty of promotion, persistence and [crucially] sticking power before it comes to fruition.  However, the minor investment of time and effort now promises to provide a wave of benefits in the future.

Should it prove unpopular or unsuccessful what has been lost?  A few hours here and there… no more, no less… and I think I can just about justify that 😉

One man mobile “library”

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I haven’t really posted much of late as I’ve hit a really busy patch at work and haven’t really had time.  Evenings have been spent recovering from a hard day in front of the computer.

However, I couldn’t let the day pass without a quick mention of  this story about a Japanese gentleman who has dropped everything to listen to his social conscience.  Initially he planned to try to persuade Japanese libraries to stock certain books on the environment and social issues, but because he received a negative response from many of them he took on the mantle himself.  He now distributes these books himself from… wait for it… his customized bicycle, complete with waterwheel-shaped bookshelf!

I’m sure his stock must get soggy quite quickly!  Still, it’s nice to see someone making the effort to promote a cause they feel passionately about – and the eccentric manner in which it’s done only makes it more interesting for the rest of us!

P.S.  I’ve been playing around with MS Dewey today.  It’s quite interesting, and seems to present me with some very relevant results to my searches, but bl**** h*** can that woman nag!! 😉  I’m glad she’s got a mute button!

Pimp my… erm… special collection

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Apparently the Vienna State Library has come up with a new outreach programme to bring the joys of one of their special collections to a wider audience.  That’s right, they’ve set up a premium rate hotline so people can pay €0.39 per minute to hear the dulcet tones of Austrian star Anne Bennent reading a selection of 18th-20th century erotic literature from their extensive collection.  Now that’s what I call classy!  I wonder whether she’s got a husky voice, and they play bad saxophone music in the background as an accompaniment?  😉

A number of American news services and bloggers are reporting this (not sure what that says about them), claiming the revenue raised is going to go towards library remodelling and expansion.  However, the head librarian (interviewed today by Eddie Mair on the BBCs PM programme) insisted that no money was being made, and that this was just one of the library’s cultural activities.  Not sure which is most believable… I’m still trying to get my head round a state library running an “0898” service!!

LIShow 2007

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Tomorrow sees the start of the 2007 Library and Information Show.  This is a chance for library suppliers, librarians and old friends to come together for a few days, discuss ideas and plans over a few beers, take in some presentations and generally soak up some new vibes.

I know a number of people are going, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them, but I’m also hoping to see a few faces that I haven’t seen for ages and who I don’t necessarily know will be there.  It’s the surprise that makes such encounters so entertaining.

In terms of seminars, I’m looking forward to hearing my former University Sheila Corrall speaking about the need for information literacy. I’m currently working on developing IL courses for a group of professionals who are mid-career and most certainly not digital natives.  Although the problems posed by this target audience are very different to the ones that you may come across in the HE and HE sectors, there are obvious parallels.  Frameworks for IL like the SCONUL 7 Pillars model are useful guides for anyone approaching the development of IL teaching programmes, especially if you’re a newbie to it like I am.  I covered the subject in my MA with Sheila C (above) and IL guru Sheila Webber, and so I feel like I’ve had a good grounding.  However for what I’m trying to achieve with my courses will inevitably differ from straight workplace and HE IL courses.  The frameworks will, in the end, be just that – guides or theories around which a course could be loosely based.  The difficulty is getting fro A to B in the most efficient manner possible – and I’m very much at point A atm!  Still, it’s going to be an interesting journey.  Let’s hope I don’t end up going via Z!

However, I digress massively.  This is my first LIShow, so I’ll post a brief (or maybe not-so-brief) review when I get back.

Professional organisations

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I haven’t really gone into work details here before, but I’ll briefly mention that I am a UK based librarian who works in the special libraries sector. I am also a solo worker, so I appreciate all the information that I get from the professional blogs I read. I don’t really get chance to discuss policy and strategy directly with fellow librarians, and that is why communication through blogs, best-practice wikis and alike are so important to me.

Now, there are a lot of very useful UK-based blogs out there. Phil Bradley’s blog is an excellent source of information, and Sheila Webber on the information literacy weblog always has excellent advice to give, and points her readers to very useful IL resources that are available online and in print. However, as you’ll see from my blogroll, the blogs I read predominantly come from the US. There seems to me to be a greater buzz around librarianship in the States, especially in terms of pro-active action and adopting new technologies to improve services to users. This “can do, will do” attitude is very appealing to me, as is the lack of inhibition the librarians show when writing openly about difficult topics and stirring debate amongst their readership.

This brings me to my main point. I am a member of our national professional organisation, and, in the main, I am happy with what I get from my membership. However, I do worry that I’m only getting one point of view, and a limited focus. The blogs I read tend to raise issues which, on the whole, I don’t see being addressed here. Wider reading on a subject is always going to be good for developing a rounded view, and networking in different circles will allow exposure to varied points of view. With that in mind I’ve been thinking that perhaps I need access to articles and information that focus in greater detail on my particular field. Then again, perhaps I require comment on the same topics covered by the literature I already receive, but approached from a slightly different angle and with (possibly) a little more zeal. Or, perhaps I need both!

Personally, I’m not sure whether I would benefit more from being a member of an organisation with a narrower focus, or just an organisation that represents different perspectives. Therefore, in the time-honoured tradition of trial and error I’ve decided to try both paths at once. That way I can compare and evaluate the benefits and see if one outweighs the other (or if I achieve a happy medium). Therefore, for a narrower focus I am going to become a member of the Special Libraries Association (SLA) to see what they have to offer. For an alternative perspective on current awareness issues I’m turning to the American Library Association (ALA). These seem like sensible first steps away from what I know best and into new areas where my own knowledge will (hopefully) be challenged, and supplemented with new ideas. They also offer that element of certainty that comes from joining long-established organisations – i.e. knowing (within reason) what you’re “letting yourself in for”. 😉

I am, of course, open to suggestions of alternative bodies to join should anybody have any ideas. If not, I’ll stick with my choices and see how it goes. Once I receive my first contact from them I’ll post my first impressions here.

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