Thursday, 29 September 2011

Thing 16 - Advocacy, speaking up for the profession and getting published

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License

I'm quite glad I'm a little behind as it has given me time to sort my thoughts on this issue - something that seems to have led to some fairly heated discussions about the difference between advocacy and activism, and whether either should be an expected part of having a role in the library and information profession.

As an 'Evidence Based Researcher' my current role doesn't involve me spending much time in the library (though my research is informed by, and in turn, informs, libraries and librarians). I'm also not a frequent library user, though I do occasionally borrow books and read journal articles from the academic library my department is part of. I spent almost 5 years working in public and academic libraries (with some voluntary school library experience), but I still don't feel I know enough about them to advocate for libraries on any great level.

The information profession however I'm far more comfortable advocating for - I find it a lot easier to explain to people why it's so important for us all to develop information skills and why it's important to have information specialists (some of whom are librarians) to help organise information for retrieval. I advocate for the profession when I'm out and about, and blogged about the small things I do to help spread the word.

I'm also passionate about driving the profession forward so that we're developing at the same rate (if not ahead of) the general society. We should be leading the way and one way we can do that is by sharing knowledge within the profession and building links to collaborate on innovative projects. That's one of the reasons I'm involved in supporting our professional organisations and why I'm involved in committee work for both CILIP and ALA.

On a more local level, I'm currently working to raise awareness of what Evidence Base does and how we can help the profession. We're a self-funded organisation working with all sectors of the library and information community (and sometimes further afield) in research, evaluation, and consultancy. We work on projects of any scale, from small-scale institutional level projects to national level initiatives, and are keen to work with practitioners to help them provide the best services they can for their users. We can help libraries to evaluate services or projects/initiatives, undertake user research (e.g. surveys, interviews, focus groups), or simply provide guidance or advice on current practice. Evidence Base also hosted events previously (before I joined) and we hope to do more of this in future. Our current areas of interest include usage statistics, mobile technologies, user behaviour (e.g. observing the way people use the library space), the value of academic libraries - and we're always open to other suggestions. It's a really exciting place to work and I hope we can do more to help practitioners in their day-to-day work; I really enjoy the research but it's applying it to practice that is the real valuable side to it.

As you can tell, we're a relatively unique organisation so it can be difficult to explain what we do. As all our work is project based and it is predominantly external (though we do help our own university library with their user research and other projects), it varies all the time so it's tricky to define and even trickier to relate that to people who might want to use our services or collaborate with us. It's been a good exercise to write it down actually so this thing has been really useful for making steps towards advocating for Evidence Base. If you are interested in learning more, you might want to follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our blog.

Getting published is another part of this thing, and that's something else I hope to do more of soon. This past year has been focused mainly on my dissertation and settling into a different area of work, but now it's time to start thinking about publishing again, preferably some peer-reviewed articles.

What now?

The actions specific to this thing aren't really so relevant for me so I'm devising my own actions:

  • Develop Evidence Base's message in collaboration with colleagues and devise strategy for getting message across to potential collaborators/users of our services
  • Continue to work on CILIP and ALA committees and advocate within the profession to share knowledge and build links
  • Consider opportunities for writing articles for peer-reviewed journals

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Thing 15 part 3 - Top tips for organising events

Day 88: Event organiser survival pack
Event organiser's survival kit

I've only fairly recently starting organising events, but I really enjoy it. I helped organise a local debate on behalf of CILIP West Midlands, organised our annual Member's Day and AGM earlier this year, and a hustings event for the CILIP election last year which we livestreamed.

I've developed a number of new skills in this process, and honed my organisation skills. There's a lot of elements to co-ordinate and different groups of people to organise; speakers, attendees, sponsors, and members of the organising team (if you're lucky!).

Here are some of my top tips for organising events:
  • Contact speakers to discuss ideas as early as possible and to check their availability.
  • Check out a variety of different venues and use any contacts you or any of the other organisers have - maybe you could get a free/reduced rate through your workplace or your contacts?
  • Begin publicising the event early (this way you may start to generate interest even if you're not yet ready to take bookings).
  • Provide clear information about the event when publicising (including a simple, descriptive title) - you don't want people to be disappointed to discover it's not what they hoped it was.
  • Provide information to help attendees (and their managers) understand the learning outcomes of the event.
  • Use multiple channels to promote the event to your target audience - face to face, website, email and social media.
  • Offer a number of options for payment from attendees (cash, cheque, online payment, invoice) to cover both personal and institutional payment methods.
  • Think about amplifying the event outside physical constraints (if appropriate). You might want to consider asking people to blog/tweet about the event.
  • If you're planning to encourage people to tweet about the event, establish a hashtag (preferably a short but distinctive one) and include it in all promotion.
  • Look after your speakers and delegates. It's really important not to let any frustrations or mini disasters show to attendees - I always try to aspire to be like a swan; calm and serene at the surface, panicking and frantically organising underneath. 

What next?

Well, I'm currently helping organise quite a few things for CILIP West Midlands, and I also hope to organise some events for Evidence Base (my workplace) soon. We're a small team and have been focusing on project work for the last year, but I'd definitely like to get some events organised for the library community. I've got so many ideas but I'm not sure what to prioritise - what would you like an event on?

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Thing 15 part 2 - Top tips for presenting at events

University of Oxford - the last room I presented in
Although I've always enjoyed teaching, I get incredibly nervous before I speak in public. I'd been wondering about presenting at an event and it all seemed to come together in 2009. Meredith Farkas posted an excellent blog post about trying new things and pushing your boundaries and it really had an impact on me. I'd been chatting to my then boss about what challenges I wanted to accomplish next, and we'd come to the conclusion that as I loved teaching and loved attending events, I should try presenting at an event. At around that time I spotted the first New Professionals Conference advertised which was asking for proposals from first-time speakers. I was amazed (and terribly apprehensive!) when I discovered I had been chosen as one of the speakers. It was a really great experience; I didn't realise until the night before when we met together for dinner that all the speakers were first-timers. I think that fact really helped us bond - we were all nervous but wanted to support each other and it was great knowing that there were at least 8 other faces in the audience wishing you the best. I felt physically sick for most of the day, but I felt such a buzz after I had presented. It felt great to share my passions and experiences with my peers and hopefully they learnt something from me. I got lots of comments and questions from people in the break afterwards which let me know they were at least listening!

Since then I've spoken at a number of other events; some that I have submitted a proposal to, others I've been invited to speak at. I'm by no means an expert, and I still get incredibly nervous, but I learn something new each time I present. Here's my top tips for speaking at events:
  • Research the venue, room layout, technical facilities, and anticipated audience size to inform your presentation style and technique.

  • Tailor your presentation for every new audience.

  • Arrive early to ensure you can introduce yourself to the organisers and check the setup.

  • Be respectful to the organisers and stick to your allotted time when presenting.

  • If your timeslot is more than 15-20 minutes, make sure you schedule in some activities or discussion time to break it up for your audience.

  • Save multiple copies of your presentation on multiple devices. At the last event I presented at, I presented from my iPad but I also had copies of my presentation on Slideshare, Dropbox, my email account, the organisers email account and a USB (.ppt, .pptx and .pdf versions) - maybe a little too excessive but as all librarians know LOCKSS (lots of copies keep stuff safe)!

  • Embed your fonts if you are using PowerPoint (there's nothing worse than discovering the PC doesn't have the correct font and it has changed it which has affected the layout too).

  • Give yourself time for networking if you can, particularly after your presentation as people may well have comments or questions.
What next?

I'm currently preparing my first international conference presentation at Internet Librarian International 2011, which I'm really looking forward to. I'm presenting a topic I haven't yet presented on (productivity tools for librarians) which should be good as it's something I'm really interested in - I love a good to-do list! It's not until the final day of the conference which is a bit of a shame (I tend to prefer to get it over with so I can relax and enjoy the rest of the event!), but hopefully I can keep my nerves at bay.

In my current job role I'm no longer directly involved in teaching, so I like to try to find ways to satisfy that side of me by speaking at professional events. I particularly enjoy group workshop type events, but I think I'm getting better at the large groups (though I find that a lot more difficult as you can't connect with people as easily). I'm definitely going to continue to present if I can and might include it in my upcoming review at work.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Thing 15 part 1 - Attending events

Now you're talking, this is my kind of topic! I absolutely love events - I learn so much from them both from the content of the event and from the networking opportunities. I've also presented at a number of events and more recently been involved in organising them which I also really enjoy. I'm going to split this thing into 3 different posts including things I have learnt from each as well as my plans for future.

Attending events
LITA Top Tech Trends session at ALA Annual
I've attended a number of different events over the last few years; some free, some funded by my workplace, some funded by sponsors or bursaries, some funded by myself. Last year I made a decision to focus all my efforts on trying to attend the American Library Association 2011 Annual conference, and I'm pleased to say I managed it (thanks to the John Campbell Trust and my employer helping financially) and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I've managed to get some sponsored places at conferences (CoFHE Conference 2009, LILAC Conference 2010) and been fortunate enough to receive funding to support attendance at events so I thought I'd share some tips:
  • Look out for funding opportunities from different sources (professional organisations, special interest groups, suppliers, organisers), and if you are interested and eligible, apply. Get support from your employer or mentors (formal and informal) to read through your application and add their support if needed. The applications can be time consuming, but they are so worth it if you get to attend events you wouldn't otherwise be able to.
  • Be willing to put time and effort into sourcing funding and making arrangements - it might take quite a few attempts and could mean leaving planning your schedule to the last minute, but if you really want to go it will be worth it!
  • Don't be disheartened by unsuccessful funding applications - there is often really strong competition and a limited budget so don't look at it as a major failure. If appropriate, see if you can get feedback on why you were unsuccessful this time and use it as a learning experience.
  • Be prepared to pay for some or all the costs yourself if you are able to - sometimes you're not able to do so due to the high costs involved, but I always try to set aside some money for event costs or travel costs to help towards that perfect event that I'm bound to find out about. That way you can also sometimes book cheap deals and see if you can recuperate some of the expense later with funding options.
  • Offer to help out in return for a free/reduced rate - sometimes there might be the opportunity to help the organisers out, for example helping set up, supporting registration, or tweeting/blogging/photographing the event. I've offered to tweet at two events where this wasn't advertised but my offer was accepted in exchange for a free place meaning I only had to cover my travel costs. Without this I wouldn't have been able to attend at all. Some conferences offer free places to speakers too (though this isn't always the case).
  • Be willing to use up some of your free time - I imagine most people doing the CPD23 programme will be doing some, if not all, of it in their free time. Some employers are able to allow you to attend events during work time, but sometimes it's likely that you'll have to use up some annual leave, or your evenings/weekends. It's worth it though I think.
  • If the event is located somewhere you haven't visited before, try to schedule time to visit some local attractions. I haven't managed to do this much in the past, and always really regret not making time to explore the area.
  • Make the most of the event if you are offered sponsorship. Get involved in everything you can - attend sessions and social events, network with new people and strengthen existing connections, share  what you learn with others, write up blog posts or reports afterwards. 

What next?

I've been very fortunate so far, and I hope I can continue to attend events - I find them one of the most valuable forms of professional development. I have applied for the Emerging Leaders program in ALA which requires attendance ALA Midwinter and ALA Annual next year, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for that. I'd also love to attend the IFLA conference at some point, and definitely want to attend CILIP's Umbrella conference.

Some upcoming events I am attending this year include Library Camp UK, LIS DREaM workshop, Internet Librarian International (speaking), and Online Information 2011 (tweeting).

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Thing 14 - Reference management tools (and how to manage your dissertation references)

In my previous job I provided reference management training for staff and students on EndNote, which was our institution's chosen reference management software. Although our main focus was on EndNote, we also explored other options, both paid for and free. I have previously tried each of the featured tools from CPD23 - Zotero, Mendeley and CiteULike. I'm particularly interested in the development of Mendeley - I love the watched folder feature and they are involved in some really interesting projects to integrate with other systems (of particular relevance to academic libraries).

Whilst I was doing my dissertation, I chose to use EndNote to manage my references (the desktop software, not EndNote Web).

My EndNote library
I had some interesting discussions on Twitter about how I did this so I thought I'd take the opportunity to outline the process I used:
  1. Save all documents (reports, articles etc.) in one folder (I used Dropbox so that I had access from anywhere) using a standard file structure (I used the author's surname and the year of publication e.g. Alcock_2011). As a side note - I've just discovered that Mendeley can rename files for you which I may have to check out.
  2. Add an EndNote record for each reference to your EndNote library immediately after saving and attach a copy of the document to the record - you can either create the record manually, or export the records from many databases (but make sure you double check the details if exporting).
  3. Add the record to a 'To read' folder so that you can keep track of your reading.
  4. After reading the document add research notes to the EndNote record including quotes (along with their page number) if you come across some you may wish to use, add any relevant keywords (to help later retrieval), remove from your 'To read' folder and add to any other relevant folders if you wish (you might want to set up subject groups).
  5. Set up groups within EndNote for references from each chapter of the dissertation (you can probably do this with Smart Groups using tags in the records but I just did it manually by dragging and dropping).
  6. Have a catch all bibliography group which contains all references from each chapter (just select all references from each chapter's group and drag and drop onto the catch all group to ensure they're all in there). 
My reference groups within EndNote
Using this method means you can: 
  • Access your articles from anywhere (from your filestore in Dropbox or directly from your EndNote library which you may also choose to save in Dropbox if you're working at multiple computers that have EndNote software installed)
  • Use EndNote's search functionality to find articles based not only on their author or title but also the content (even better if you export the records from databases as this often includes the abstract and subject headings so you'll have those in addition to your own research notes in there)
  • Amend the reference style as necessary for all your records at once (there are plenty of styles already in EndNote but it's also pretty straight forward to create your own or edit an existing one if your department uses a slight variation of a common style)
  • Create reference lists for each chapter (useful when sending chapter drafts to your supervisor)
  • Create a full bibliography for the dissertation

After writing my first full draft of my dissertation, I had to completely change the structure from a traditional scientific approach (Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, Results, Discussion, Conclusion) to a thematic approach. There was a lot of moving content around and adding/deleting references as appropriate to the new structure. I was so glad that I had everything in EndNote so it was just a case of dragging and dropping into my new chapter groupings.

I'm sure you could use a similar system for any of the reference management tools, but I chose to use EndNote due to familiarity and the fact that I was a little wary of relying on a relatively new or cloud-based system in case of problems. I know everyone has a slightly different system, but I hope some of this is useful  - I was certainly glad I didn't have to spend hours manually organising and writing references as I was finishing my dissertation.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Thing 13 - Wikis, Google Docs, Dropbox

I've used each of these tools before but I haven't really explored wikis to any major extent so I focused on wikis for the practical element of this thing, and I've included a brief description of my use of Google Docs and Dropbox.


I have had a PBworks account for a few years now and the main wiki I use is the UK library blogs wiki which I help administer (which I've just realised I haven't added this 23 Things blog to!).

I'm hoping to use a personal wiki to collect evidence for my CILIP Chartership which I'm planning to start next year, so I did a bit of exploring on an existing wiki to check out some of the more advanced features. We have a committee wiki for CILIP West Midlands which was set up last year by Katharine with the aim of recording what is involved in each of the committee roles to help new (and existing) committee members understand each other's roles and responsibilities. I completed the basics last year but was aware that I needed to add more explanation about the role, so I spent some time adding information about my different areas of responsibility as Marketing Officer.

Marketing Officer wiki page (click for larger image)
I set up a template for each of the different web tools I am responsible for (the hyperlinked bullet points under online marketing) so each page had certain sections:

  • Description
  • Responsibility
  • Content
  • Frequency
  • Promotion
To set up a template just create a page with the headings (or whatever else you want in your page template) and then tag it with the word template (all lower case). Then when you next create a new page you can choose to create it from that template. Nifty trick and definitely something I'll be using in future.

User permissions
I also had a look at different user permissions - there are lots of options but for some page specific options (e.g. hiding pages from all but admins) you need a paid account. The different user levels (administrators, editors, writers and users) are useful to enable people access whilst preventing loss of pages or crucial information, but it doesn't seem possible to have information only viewable to certain people on the free account. Please let me know if you found a way to do this as it's something I'm interested in discovering.

The one thing I do struggle a little with on wikis is the structuring - it's often not so easy to navigate I find, so I think a bit of extra work is needed to make either a site map style page or add the main areas onto the front page of the wiki. I was also a little disappointed to discover that if you change the title of a page, it will lose all the links to that page (I was hoping it would be clever enough to update them or to link to a static identifier but sadly not).

My exploration has reminded me how useful wikis are - I definitely think they will be a good way to record my evidence for my Chartership as I can set up a defined template for reflecting on each activity, and it should be easy to share with my mentor.

Google Docs

I've used Google Docs occasionally over the last few years. I used it whilst I was studying so that I could work on my assignments from wherever, though the formatting options aren't great so I only tended to use it in the early drafting stages. I've used it collaboratively which I do find very useful, particularly when lots of people are working on the same document. I like the fact that you can chat alongside the document too - that's been great for CPD23 planning as I'm not able to make the face to face meetings but can join in online and make amendments to the document and join in the conversation (thanks to kind people at the meeting who write in the chat to let me know what's happening!).

The forms options are also really useful for populating survey information - great for quick and dirty fact finding surveys.


I'm a massive fan of Dropbox and save most of my documents on there. I used it during my dissertation and I use it for any reports/documents I'm working on - for work documents once they are complete I add it to Sharepoint (though I often keep a copy on Dropbox as I'm nowhere near my limit yet). I love the fact that I can get access to my documents from wherever I am and on whatever device - I use it to share work documents and meeting notes between my computers and iPad. I haven't used the sharing options often - this is probably something I should look into doing more of for ad hoc sharing rather than emailing static documents.


I've been glad to use this CPD23 thing as an excuse to spend time exploring some of the more advanced options I keep meaning to do but never get round to. It's been really useful to dedicate some time to looking into the PBworks options and finally completing my section of the CILIP West Midlands committee wiki. It's reminded me to mention it to others on the committee to get it populated as I think it could be an invaluable tool for helping new committee members - so I've added it to my things to bring up at the next committee meeting.

I'll probably be using PBworks to help me collect evidence for my CILIP Chartership portfolio, although I am disappointed that there is currently no way to edit on iPad (again, this is an Apple restriction). I really like writing on iPad and can see not being able to update the wiki on the go being a frustration; I guess I'll just have to save in a separate document or in the comments and add it to the wiki when I'm next at a computer. Hopefully in future there might be a way to update PBworks wikis via iPad (e.g. through an app).