Tuesday, 27 September 2011


I was honoured to be presented with a book token at last week's Cam23 party. In case anyone is interested in what I did with it, I went to Heffers after work today and emerged with this:

It's not one of the ones I've read, and I have a minor Everyman fetish (am reading an Everyman edition of Chekhov at the moment), so I am very proud to have this item in my possession. When I read it, I will think of you.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Thing 23

Thing 23 - Reflection week

And so things draw to a close. What a fascinating and at times challenging experience this has been. And mostly very enjoyable too, if tiring.

For me, the best thing about the programme has been getting in touch with other librarians. It's been great to have a support network of other people exploring these things at the same time so that we can encourage each other and compare notes. Without wishing to single people out embarrassingly, I've been more impressed than I can say by Annie's apparently boundless energy and enthusiasm. For the past three months she has been everywhere - not just blogging on the Cam23 2.0 site (and on her own blogs) but also commenting and tweeting all over the place. So thank you, Annie.

It was wonderful, finally, to meet other bloggers at last night's wrap party. I'm only sorry I couldn't have done it earlier. I wish all the best to those graduate trainees who are leaving Cambridge. Those who are staying around, and those who are just arriving, I hope to meet (again) before too long.

It's also been brilliant to be able to follow people who are doing CPD23. It has proved an excellent complement to Cam23, and if similar programmes run in the future I look forward to being a part of them somehow.

As for the Things themselves, by far the most useful has been Google Reader. It's revolutionised the way I manage RSS feeds. How did I exist before? I don't remember. Also delightful: LightShot! How simple it is, and how effective. It was also fun trying out screencasting. Though I try not to dwell on negatives, my feelings about Pushnote are unchanged, I haven't used iGoogle for a couple of months, and I confess I have hardly visited LibraryThing since my initial excitement wore off. I haven't got into the habit of using my Twitter account much either, though I still log in periodically, and perhaps it will become a more regular haunt now that less of my time will be taken up with blogging. But at least it's good to have tried these things out. As librarians we ought to feel an obligation to keep up with new technologies, or we will run the risk of being left behind. They may be a useful weapon if we are ever called upon to justify our existence.

OK, enough of the Braveheart stuff. I've done quite a bit of Wordling here and there in the past few years, so I thought I'd use Tagxedo, which I was introduced to by Erin's post, to add a bit of colour.

Well. Where now? I'm sure I'll appreciate the Cam23-shaped hole in my life for a bit, but those inevitable withdrawal symptoms will steal upon me before too long. I think the blog will go into at least semi-hiatus, but I won't hesitate to resurrect it if I think of anything interesting to write about. And I hope some of the other blogs will also continue. I'll keep following everyone's progress. Until we meet again.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Thing 22

Thing 22 - Wikis

Next week's reflection apart, this is the last Thing I am obliged to write about, and also, for me, the most difficult. What do I know of wikis?

Well, occasionally I find myself following a Google search result to the Countdown Wiki or the Family Guy Wiki, and I use Wikipedia daily, though sometimes I have to remind myself that I shouldn't take everything I find there at face value. The fact that anyone can edit it means that vandalism is rife. Take as an example this edit of the entry for my home town of Frome, which ingeniously amalgamates the previous edit with the entry for the Black Sea resort of Varna. Sample lie: 'Like other Somerset towns, Frome has its share of stray dogs, for the most part calm and friendly, flashing orange clips on the ears showing they have been castrated and vaccinated.' To set the record straight, Frome did not have eighteen mosques in the 19th century, and there is no Prince Boris I Boulevard anywhere in Somerset (or, indeed, the United Kingdom).

The dome of Frome Cathedral

Apart from the occasional amendment to Wikipedia, though, I haven't had anything to do with contributing to wikis. As Anna says, we used to be able to edit our library website using a Wiki, but my memories of using it are so slight as to be practically nonexistent. Probably I never did.

In a customarily perceptive post Annie compares the function of wikis to that of Google Docs, which we explored as Thing 9 many, many weeks ago. I suspect she is quite right to suggest that wikis are better for long-term projects. They're also preferable to other technologies as the reach widens. Wikis may be on the way out, but Wikipedia at least should survive, because a wiki is probably the most appropriate way (at the moment) of managing a collection of information to which presumably tens of thousands of people contribute. If, however, you're working on a smaller project with a small group of people, it's less hassle to use Google Docs.

I feel an obligation to apologise for such a half-hearted traversal of the wiki, but I know I'm not the only person feeling a sort of lethargy at this stage of proceedings. It's been fun (I'm sure that will come across when my Thing 23 post appears), but at the same time a break from blogging will be welcome. I will be rejuvenated by the time of the party on Thursday. Hope to see a lot of you there!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Thing 21

Thing 21 - Reference management

Reference management is not a sexy subject. Not for normal people, at any rate.

But I am not a normal person; I am a Librarian.

There can be few things more satisfying than compiling a lengthy and meticulous bibliography. I spent two or three months last summer doing precisely that, as I assembled my Masters dissertation. At UCL we were alerted early on to the existence and usefulness of something called Reference Manager, but I confess I never got into the habit of using it, and in any case have always rather enjoyed assembling my bibliographies slowly and painstakingly. It gives me a sense of achievement I don't imagine I would feel if I simply bunged all the information into a reference management program and clicked 'Hey presto'.

My pride and joy

Still, in the name of research, I have decided to try out Zotero, which seems the most accessible of the three methods mentioned in Suz's Cam 23 post.

In theory it should save a lot of work assembling a bibliography if you can just click a button next to the Amazon URL. A flaw is that Zotero's system appears to import mistakes from Amazon records too. So an edition of Roald Dahl's Esio Trot, one of the author's shorter works, listed inaccurately on Amazon as having 1524 pages, says the same when I add it to my Zotero references. Like a downloaded catalogue record, it saves time to start with, but requires double-checking to eradicate errors.

The Zotero reference panel

It's nice to be able to add automatically any number of different kinds of resource. Not just books and journal and news articles, but also videos from YouTube, which it didn't occur to me to cite in the bibliography of my dissertation but which might have brightened it up a little.

The really exciting bit was exporting the list to a bibliography, and testing the different types of referencing available. My preferred system is Harvard, or at least some quirky variation on Harvard my mind has devised. It only took me a couple of seconds to export my selections to a Rich Text file, and I was impressed by how classy it looked. Not perfect, and it needs quite a bit of tweaking, but feel the speed... How much simpler life might have been if I had bothered to investigate this last year.

My exported Zotero bibliography

So, some very promising investigations. I'll be interested to try out other reference management programs to compare them to this one, but surely this is the kind of thing that every librarian can get animated about. Order out of chaos.