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Saturday, 10 September 2011


Why did the librarian slip on the library floor?

It was the non-friction section.

Thing 23

The final thing to do on this blog is reflect on the 23 things I have just done (plus a 'few cool extra things').

This has been a superb programme.  I thought I was fairly tech savvy at the start of this programme, and as you know from reading every single one (ha!) of my blog posts I had done a few of the things already.  Little did I know how much more there was that I had previously missed and this programme has highlighted many things that I have been delighted to start using.  I am also pleased that on occasion (thing 15) that I have found other websites offering similar services perhaps better (zoomerang vs. surveymonkey).

My criticism of the programme must be how much there was to do.  At times it felt like an uphill struggle to get the things done, and particularly with prezi I felt demoralised by how complicated it was to do the thing.  However, I have got so much out of the process that all of that is entirely unimportant now.

I have two observations to conclude this blog with.
1.  Web 2.0 is the future of the internet.  Now that we are used to uploading content onto available platforms, sharing our thoughts and work online there is no turning back.  The internet is no longer about gathering information, it's about participation, comment and collaboration.  The future of the internet redefines our spaces and our audience, it opens up possibilities beyond our immediate surroundings and allows us to find information that anyone has produced.  However, this in itself is a danger, because content may be less accurate as a result.  In turn this suggests to me that the role of the librarian, the arbitrator in checking sources and teaching how to reference work correctly, is even more important.  Librarians must be aware of new social media and keep their pulse on internet developments, so they know how to use new tools in order to help students make a useful (and legal) contribution online.

2.  The world of web 2.0 reveals much about ourselves.  While tools like delicious demonstrate socially more about our work, twitter in particular blurs the boundaries between the professional and the private.  Great care must be taken when tweeting, so as to protect yourself from revealing too much.  There are so many stories of employers watching their employees and people getting burgled as a result to slip-ups on twitter.  I would like to see twitter take security seriously and steal a little from Google + and its use of circles.  Surely twitter would be enhanced by selecting who you were tweeting?  If someone tweets 'I have a spare ticket to a gig tonight, anyone want to come?'  It's surely aimed at the friends that follow you, rather than those you don't know.  This will probably happen.  Surely inspired by Google +, Facebook now allows you to control how can see your status updates and photos of you as a new 'security measure' but I suspect as a first step to tapping into a similar circles idea.  It makes sense, and is a great innovation.  It's just a shame that Google + has failed to become a platform that anyone I know actually uses.

The reason I protected my tweets was less to do with what people could see about me (I don't say anything outrageous) but because I dislike twitter spam.  Being mentioned by 'users' in Thailand, or being tweeted unpreviewable links is quite frankly annoying.  Twitter is a generator of much spam, a problem that disappears through protecting your tweets.  In conversation with colleagues and friends, no one I know thinks creating a professional twitter persona is a good idea (separating my professional and personal tweeting).  It's one I'm still mulling over.  What I do know is that I dislike spam, but also when I go to library camp in a few weeks I want to be able to tweet publicly.  I think it's most likely I'll just go public when I feel compelled to do so.

This programme has really led me to reassess blogging and I will be blogging my new job as a graduate trainee researcher at, so do bookmark that link and add it to your RSS reader.  I only just set it up and it's a work in progress.  I've not enjoyed my blogger experience, it's very clunky.  My introduction to wordpress is going quite badly!  So far I've changed the colour but that's about it.  Blogging is a great way of sharing your experiences, as long as there's something useful to share.  I think the amount of information available to LIS enthusiasts about the work of private libraries/information units is small (whether it's a charity, bank, trade union, etc.), and hopefully I can blog once a week for the next 9 months and help demystify this line of work.  I'll also be putting some posts in about my MA at UCL, which progresses in a couple of weeks.

Well world, goodbye.  I'm moving to wordpress now to blog about some other stuff.  I hope you enjoyed reading this blog, I very much enjoyed the programme and being a graduate trainee at City.


I've been using delicious for some time now.  It allows you to save your bookmarks to the site, share your bookmarks with others through tags and find other related bookmarks on the site.

These are all very useful, but the real advantage is that you can access your bookmarks anywhere.  Bookmarking is always a useful way of retaining links to websites (particularly one off finds when doing research) but the problem has always been that your research in location A and then do some more work in location B and because the bookmarks are saved on computer A, you can't find the websites again on computer B.  With delicious, your bookmarks are always with you.  When I was doing my university undergraduate dissertation I kept a word document of links to sites, with delicious that will no longer be necessary when I write my masters thesis.

As with Prezi and doodle, this is a very simple innovation, using the internet to replicate and enhance an already existent function of your computer.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Library twits

I blogged a while back about my use of twitter and how I find it a beneficial network to use both professionally and socially.  Twitter has become marketing tool number one for many libraries, a way to vocalise your presence and reinforce your service offer.

I follow a variety of different librarians and libraries.  Among the libraries are the internet phenomenon that is @OrkneyLibrary

Orkney Library
as well as my friends at the Scottish Poetry Library: @ByLeavesWeLive and @SPLshop (among others).  I tend to find that although following individual libraries is interesting and can show you what other institutions are doing, there are other information professionals on twitter who are more useful to follow at my stage.  If I was head of information literacy, then seeing what other libraries are investing their time and money into would be extremely useful.  But that's not me.

@LISNPN, the twitter feed of the LIS New Professionals Network is a great feed, and has job adverts, interesting articles and links.  In preparation for Library School at UCL in September, @UCLDISStudents has had some interesting tweets to share too (the twitter feed for the UCL LIS student blog - though it's not the most active feed).  I follow a few other trainees who blog and enjoy reading about their traineeships.  The feeds from the British Library, CILIP and JISC are also excellent to follow for the links, articles, conferences and retweets they share.  

Twitter feeds are invaluable conference tools.  If you are not at a conference you can still follow the action from the hoards of library tweeters who are tweeting the main points from the conference hall.  For attendees, twitter provides an archive of notes from the conference by yourself and the other participants and a network of contacts to follow up information with.

I've really started to question whether my approach to twitter is benefitting me adequately.  23things has demonstrated to me the benefits of sharing as well as accessing the fruits of other people's sharing.  On twitter I sometimes have something to say that would add to the debate perhaps at a conference or event, or even just to enter the competition to win tetley tea for a year (@tetley_teafolk every Friday!)  Since I use twitter as a very social medium as well, I think I'll split my tweeting between social me and professional me, and not worry about some inevitable overlap in between.  While I don't think the world wants to know about my holiday plans and (occaisional) pub quiz wins, my friends do.  Likewise I want to share my thoughts on libraries, my course and conferences in the public sphere.  That way I can also keep my spam at zero on my personal feed.  Using tweetie for mac or twibble, managing two accounts is also simple, so all in all it seems like a good time to be doing this, particularly as I'll be balancing two different information related activities (work and uni) and continuing my training and development.  I'll share my new twitter persona when I create it, and it will likely correspond to my next blog (which will not be on blogger - how crap is this?) but more on that for thing 23.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Beyond my window

Not far away from my window is a big mast.

R/DV/RS (attribution license)
rising above the trees, and giving the impression HG Wells fiction is actually real and London has been invaded by contraptions from Mars. 

This is in fact the ghostly home of the BBC

By Matt From London (attribution license)
Alexandra Palace was originally built as a North London 'People's Palace' very much like Crystal Palace south of the river and opened in 1863.  It became the BBC's home in 1936.  While no production takes place there any more, the antenna does still broadcast to your radio (though probably not your TV anymore).

While the Palace is in a sad state of repair, it still has wonderful palm houses and hosts concerts.  Sometimes there are fireworks.

By wwarby (attribution license)

It's a comforting sight when I go past it on the train or see it from my window and it makes me feel at home. 

Flickr has all sorts of pictures, and with CC attribution licenses you don't worry about breaking the law.  It may take a little longer to find what you want than a google image search, but it gives you piece of mind and spreads willing photographers work to audiences who wouldn't otherwise see it.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Show your Meta-l

Zuula is very good.  I like the way that the site recognises that Google will probably give the best results, and then there are additional tabs to see results that Google did not find from Bing, then Yahoo and then all sorts of other search engines that I had never heard of.  Unlike Dogpile (what an unpleasant name) and Metacrawler, Zuula shows you explicitly what Google found and then what other search providers found on top of that.  Dogpile and Metacrawler just give you a heap of information from all of the big search engines.  I wasn't keen on Dogpile or Metacrawler, the interface is poor on both and they were more like Mama than anything else I've used recently with 'Obama' and 'Wheel of Fortune' featuring as wholly random, poor suggested searches...again (see yesterday's post).

Search algorithms are fascinating.

I hope that library school will shed some light onto how retrieval occurs, though I'm quite sure that much of it would pass me by (UCL is quite traditional so I'm not holding my breath in any case).  What I will learn is how to use search tools most effectively and how to pass on that expertise.  In my next job I will be using databases a lot, and effectively searching will be essential.  In my current job I search extensively through different online catalogues and repositories to find information from UK and international institutions for interlibrary loan.  Searching really makes you realise how important grammar is in your search, how refined terms are so much more effective and that small differences in your search terms have massive consequences for your results.

Any online search engine will find results.  What's important is to find quality results and here the search engine makes all the difference.  I still think Google is the best content finder, and will continue to default to that.  However meta search engines have opened my eyes and I will certainly go to Zuula in the next instance.

Refining your search and being specific is the most important thing.  I find it really interesting that on Zuula I searched for my name and result no.3 was my account (I actually forget it's there, I rarely use it and have never had it synced to itunes) and my username on is the same as my twitter name.  I then searched for my twitter name and Google only found my profile as result no.19.  I think this just goes to show that you really need to look closely at your results and not just assume that the best result is at the top of the list.

We also shouldn't be too reliant on search engines.  When you're looking for information for an essay you would look first on the library catalogue (search engine, by analogy) and will find useful results.  However, these results will not exclusively point you towards the best content, use of bibliographies from the books and articles you use (tags, links on websites, by analogy) will also play their part.  Good internet research cannot be confined to Google; there's so much more beyond.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


Google is the great search engine of our time; the word has seamlessly entered our vocabulary and the site is so important in our daily lives that it's hard to remember that it's just a private company based in California.  In an entirely anecdotal study I will compare Google with three rivals: Bing, Yahoo and Mama.  My search term for all of the search engines was "2011 stirling prize" (referring to the RIBA Stirling Prize 2011, the shortlist can be found here).  Since it's a prize organised by the RIBA, I was anticipating that my search would bring up a link to their website because that is the official website of the Stirling Prize.

1.  Google

I like the way that on Google there are quick links to refine search results for content within specific time frames and to switch to different searches for different types of content (image, map etc.)  The RIBA website comes top of the list.

2. Bing

Bizarrely Bing doesn't bring up the RIBA as the top result.  The official site actually isn't on the first, second or third page of results (after that I got bored and googled instead).  Coupled with not meeting my expectation it also has a silly name.  Again, you can refine results by date and even turn on search history without having to do an advanced search.

3. Yahoo
Yahoo doesn't have the same quality interface of the first two engines.  This one has a sponsored link (well, they need to make money somehow, I suppose) and presumably the links on the left have sponsored the site too.  Vimeo, The Guardian and Telegraph are a slightly random collection of sites to refine the results by, and once again the RIBA site is not at the top of the list.  Just like Bing, it really struggles to find the RIBA site.

4. Mama
I used to use Mama when I was at school, because the concept of the name, the tag line, the picture all appealed to my 15 year old persona.  Here's what Mama looks like:
Oh dear.  Mama is the most blatantly commercial of my straw poll.  The top links are all sponsored sites and there are no quick refinement options on screen.  The search suggestions are poor, containing either 2011 or prize 'has Obama earned Nobel prize' and 'wheel of fortune 2011' among them...

I told you this wouldn't be very scientific.

I should go a little more in depth.  Let's look at advanced search options, which for in proper internet research is essential.  Mama scores nil point: there is no advanced search option.  I think Mama's had her day.  Bing has options to add search terms, search specific domains, web pages from particular countries and particular languages.  I don't like the look of the advanced search box, though, which allows you to make individual changes to your search one at a time, rather than filling out one large web form as on Yahoo and Google.  All of these search engines essentially have the same advanced search options though.  You can helpfully remove results that contain unwanted words and add exact phrases that you require.  Searching "Simpson family" but excluding Homer and Bart brings up interesting genealogical results.

My conclusion has to be that any of these large, reputable search engines do much the same thing.  I think Google has rightfully earned the reputation it has, though.  I am instinctively drawn to it, because it has a user friendly interface and tends to bring up the better option first time.  Performing an advanced search on Bing is less intuitive than Google, and Yahoo tends to have too many sponsored links (though google isn't perfect either).  Yahoo is also too purple.  Google also has no rival when it comes to the Google Doodle, which like Wikipedia's featured article, is a daily internet delight.