Friday, 3 September 2010

Crail is risen from the dead!

Well, there I was, mid-day and still in the Wincyette pyjamas and the [slightly soiled] Terylene housecoat, just settling down in readiness for 'Loose Women' with a pink Sobranie and a schooner* of sweet sherry [*well, all right, I use the commode pot], when Matron announced I had a visitor.

In came Passion & the Fury, somewhat red-faced from the exertion of cycling to Mablethorpe, demanding, if you please, something from the mini-bar. Quickly hid the 'schooner' under the chair, and pointed out that only tea was allowed for visitors. She grudgingly accepted the remaining hard-centres from the previous visitor's Milk Tray box, and then whipped out various items from her wheely-shopper. Some rather lovely blue balloons, some M&S choccies [soft centres, thank the lord], a puzzling plastic thing that said 'More than words', and a statue of a nude man, no less! 'What am I supposed to do with THAT?' I demanded, getting tetchy since by now she was keeping me from lunch, and I'd selected Sausage Surprise and Spotted Dick too. Next thing I know, out comes the camera, lots of flashes, and some unflattering images will no doubt soon be circulating the internet. I deny it all. The Max Factor Compact and Trowelette were still in my shopping bag too.

'You've won a prize', she told me. 'The VD Award, aka Most Effusive Verbal Diarrhoea'. Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather, had I not been semi-recumbent already, having consulted the 'schooner' every time her back was turned whilst rummaging in her shopper [fuchsia leopard-print - I ask you].

Anyway, many, many thanks to all you kind people who for some reason [I'm not dead, and I'm not rich] voted for mon blog. Totally undeserved as I just blurted out a load of crap, whereas some wrote carefully-crafted and immaculately-presented near-opuses [?opi?]. Didn't even think I'd passed the course, let alone got a risque ornament for the mantelpiece. Didn't attend the partaaay as the bus pass only works for local buses [and as you can imagine, the locality of Mablethorpe has little to recommend it]. Plus, of course, because I had offended so many people with thoughtless comments that it seemed unwise to attend. Have only apologised personally to a couple of people, but again I apologise unreservedly to anyone to whom I caused offense.


Here's a phote of a contrite moi post-trowelette [Passion & Fury had of course swanned off to the Bricklayer's Arms by then with her Instamatic]. Sincere thanks to everyone, and please know I am genuinely touched [in both senses of the word] and grateful to you all. Thanks too to Passion & the Fury, for coming all that way, after having been on her knees scrubbing dubious stains from the carpet until 1 am after the paartaaay, and having a terrible time trying to persuade reluctant cab-drivers to take tired & emotional attendees home, when they couldn't even remember where home was ['I don't care if they are librarians, love, I'm telling you I wouldn't take Her Majesty herself to Buckingham Palace in that state'].
And now I've GOT to go. Strip Bingo, with a possible prize of a bottle of Malibu, and then the Gay Gordons at Darby and Joan. Six Joans to every Darby, so there's always a bit of an unseemly scrum.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

"Now to scape the serpent's tongue"

[With apologies to Girl in the Moon for nicking her thread, but it was too hard to resist]

Ah, it's been a long 12 weeks, and Miss Crail is feeling the burn ...

Unfortunately, no Damascene moments to report yet. Need time to digest, cogitate, and possibly regurge. This will be a long-term thingy. The old Delicious account is positively STUFFED with things to follow up later.

Anyway, can I have an aegrotat without having devised a marketing plan of stunning innovation and ingenuity? I need that certificate, not only because it will look nice on the wall next to ‘Choosing and using ladders’ [it was an uphill struggle, but I did it] and the barely-legible quill-pen-on-lambskin ALA, but to point out to the academic who has been walking behind my desk, eyeing my screen, flaring his nostrils and adjusting his trousers disapprovingly. Never mind the champagne and canapes, though the opportunity to swish around in a lovely polyester gown over a too-tight grey suit, and fling that tassel across the mortar board, was once a pleasing vision.

Cam23 has proved useful to me in these ways:

* Most importantly, immersion in Cam23 has meant I simply haven’t had time for cataloguing, dusting, heaving bloody great bound journals along the shelves to try to create a few inches of space. Heh heh. More next summer please.

* Quite a few of us work solo in libraries, and thus often feel left out of the information loop. I only know a couple of people on the program, that’s how isolated I am. The nun-like sequestration is amplified if you are a library assistant. Information gets out in patchy ways - some colleagues will be unaware of an important resource or development, whilst others will have missed hearing about something else. This is worrying as well as being annoying. If you are missing out, your users are missing out too. I was intending to use as illustration the fliers I saw in the UL about the testing of the search facility available ‘from this autumn', and Aidan only having heard ‘rumours’ about what sound like pretty important changes, but not having been informed myself - But I was cut off at the pass this morning by Ed Chamberlain’s message. Heck, I'm going to say it anyway. Communication from above is patchy. OK, that has little to do with Cam23. However, although Cam 23 is less about resources than about media, it has helped enormously to see what others in the Cambridge system have been up to, and in suggesting what should best be considered [As well, of course, as seeing how other libraries are using these tools, often in the most innovative ways]. I don’t feel so much as if I’m on Pluto [or more aptly perhaps, in Upminster - you know, beyond Barking]

* It has been absolutely fascinating to hear others’ opinions, the strong reactions both positive and negative, in interesting combinations, and to benefit from the views of the already-experienced. Conversely, others’ postings have reassured me that I’m not the only person in Cambridge who feels like they are not quaffing the champagne and guffawing loudly at the geeks’ party. What has been a revelation is that most of these Web 2.0 tools are genuinely easy to install and use, as well as being free. That’s my kind of tool. My ‘Well-I-won’t-understand-that’ barrier has been broken down by Cam23. For the less-than-confident, the idiot-proof instructions given by the team each week have been spot on .

* Some of the tools have already made my life so much easier. As a tricomputerate person, how did I live without Google Reader, Google Calendar, Google Documents, all the ‘stuff’ parked in iGoogle? All Googlecentric ... but who flippin' cares? I can see how tools such as these aid communication with colleagues, but not really for MY library users, ditto Doodle. Facebook for libraries - Have had the necessary info parked there for a year, but I honestly don’t think a dialogue is going to happen, ditto blogs. Flickr, YouTube, LibraryThing etc - Nice toys, not for work. If I want a phote of the, um, gothic splendour of the Plant Scis Library, I'll do it myself. I’m glad I’ve been forced to consider Zotero, and angry with myself for not doing it sooner. It will certainly be recommended to PhD students, as will Delicious continue to be, and I’ll also use the latter to park links to sites I’ve recommended to them and not just for me. Twitter - well, to use it properly you need to be checking it constantly and following up leads, or you’re cast adrift; and if you have time to do that at work then you’re lucky. A lot of the tools we’ve covered would be extremely useful for public libraries or for large academic libraries [RSS feeds, podcasts, wikis etc] but not necessarily for small departmental libraries with a captive audience. I have so many more options to consider now when attempting to update my own, er, expertise. In the past, I’d never have considered SlideShare but there are some useful presentations out there. Blogs ditto, mainlining Phil Bradley and 'them clever people'.

* If Cam23 has achieved only one thing with the recalcitrant Crail, it has forced one to finally work out how to drop RSS feeds into web pages as a way of updating the ones I don’t have access to.

As to what I will use to engage others, this will require some thought. The Passion & the Fury brought to my attention the dog distracted by squirrels which is kind of how I am. 'Wow! That’s good' [do it for a week] 'Wow! thats good' etc. The ether is littered with my little dumps. So I for one NEED to step back and think before diving in.

I don’t think the Infosphere is yet at the level of development where we can push out info, and all the people who need to receive it will do so, same as researchers should not rely wholly on feeds to get their bib and research updates. If you are a Twitter junkie [and quite a few Cam23ettes have said they think this is a medium they will be using] then you are likely to get a constant stream, ergo it is not the ideal medium for punting out library info, likely to be most people's 'yeah-right-check-that-later' [with added '-and-then-completely-forget-about-it'] category. If I need to get out information to exactly the right group of people, then a targeted generic e-mail is still the best option. The Mongoose's description of a conference with several levels of attention required, for different information sources, sounds like hell to me, let alone for the poor speaker who has to keep control of it all. And it's frankly rude to be tweeting to others when your little face should be tilted attentively upward. Worse than snoring loudly. Plus, are we really saying we are genuinely capable of processing multiple streams of information simultaneously? And that all that stuff about teevee/the internet/Google making us stupid was totally wrong?

Social media - the idea of tending more towards the informal is good, given the apparent continuing stuffy image of library staff. Getting out of one’s rut and trying new methods is good. Feedback, interaction, collaboration, all good. But we must be careful that it is not just the same message in a new-toy medium. The reminder that students’ learning styles are changing and differ from person to person anyway is a bit worrying, as that means not just different platforms but different methods/content. But as Chris and others have said, these things must be kept up to date and interesting. Normally, if you don’t have anything to say it is best to keep quiet, but that looks bad on Facebook or blog pages. It is certainly time for Miss Crail to be killed off [after a brief but ruinously expensive sojourn drying out in St Joan's Institution for Aged Librarians, Gasworks Ave, Mablethorpe]. Facebook does at least allow some static information, but that is essentially duplicating a website, where necessary information must still remain, because most people will still look there for opening hours etc.

Right, enough already, exit stage left to the sounds of Rickie Lee Jones and ‘Last chance Texaco’, and head for the chaise longue and a well deserved Tanqueray with digestives to dunk [God, that makes a mess]. Perhaps even wee little toke on the Departmental Hookah whilst illicitly reclining in the Academics' Bagnio.

Oh, and I think I used the wrong graphic at the beginning. I meant, of course, to use this:

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

'Seal the island, Dan'l'

[Sorry, the title won't mean anything to most people, but couldn't think of another one. And, whadd'ya know? Joan was in an episode!]

Having wrestled with the roughly-equivalent subjects of CMSs and the clunky, inflexible and unlovely Camtools, I was feeling a bit cynical about library-related wikis. Wikis and CMS-enabled sites can be useful, but as Camtools has demonstrated, they don’t quite take off as expected. Not everyone embraces the concept with the institutionally-desired enthusiasm, especially when one is trying to wrangle academics. I am the administrator of a couple of Camtools sites, and run a Departmental website, so I know it is MURDER trying to get people other than the helpful few to contribute. News? New grants? Interesting research? Images? Stonewalled. Make it up yourself.

Most of the wikis we were asked to look at were indistinguishable from a normal website to the untrained eye, so it would be great in such circumstances if more staff could add and amend. However, someone has to end up being Miss Trunchbull, or there are endless wrangles about the more trivial aspects, such as design [as I got last summer, whilst the far more important content part was still left for me to sort out]. However, the idea that the relatively untrained can add bits is excellent. Templates, and the entry box with similar actions to Word, are wonderful wheezes. [Blogger is a great example of a Web 2.0 tool that anyone can use and produce a pretty decent-looking product]

And then I saw Antioch University's awesomely comprehensive staff training wiki. God, that must have taken some work, but what an excellent resource. No need to ask that old bag again how to print a spine label - it's all there, and you can do it in brown-wrapper secrecy! ...I did notice though that a lot of the wikis recommended were still used amongst staff and not reaching out to users.

I also noticed the frequency of the 'Ask a Librarian' box, which we know the CSL uses. Frankly, I'd rather people followed a link and e-mailed me. The worry would be that if I did not constantly check, there's nobody else to answer those interesting 'What are you wearing under that tweed skirt?' questions. It would definitely be enormously useful to obtain readers' opinions and suggestions, and if a wiki gives them the opportunity to do that whilst the thought is hot so to speak], then great. I got some refreshingly frank and helpful comments a while back in a library survey, but such responses are not 'of the instant' and constrained by the questions asked.

So, yes, wikis are a great idea, and most useful in many circumstances. But alas, once again, unlikely to be of use in Craildom.

Sh*t. Here comes the flying chalk again.

Oh, and PS, must I pontificate about Wordle? It's a toy

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

I think I'm in love

This is awful. I think I am in love with Zotero, and I've only been stepping out with Mendeley for 10 months.
I am usually quite good at breaking things but I cannot find anything wrong with Zotero. But come on, there has to be a catch.
Cut and paste the ISBN, DOI and the ref appears! That is bordering on sorcery.
Please will someone enlighten me, tell me it makes Word explode or whatever, before I go skipping off into the sunset and do something silly.

Fifty years in Akademgorodok

Well this is flipping embarrassing.

I've spent the last 5 years working in 2 different libraries, bedecked with memory sticks, different versions of docs on different computers, and all the time there was Google Documents. Never mind the sharing aspect, I needed this to share with moi. Not for the first time, I wish I was '...an invererate tinkerer' like Girl in the Moon. I'd have weasled around in 'more' at the top of the Google page, and ... God, I'm so ashamed.

Cam23 has been great for highlighting useful tools like this one, or Google calendar. In one way it is making some of us feel a bit more competent, but also there's been quite a lot of 'How could I have been so bloody stupid?' As far as I'm concerned, I mean. Have been playing with it just for the fun of the time delay in typing, so that text appears as it used to do many many years ago when the football results were shown on teevee. If I was using something non-personal to interact with users, I'd be tempted to use Wallwisher and ask them to add comments. Can't honestly see how in my circumstances Google Docs could be used for marketing though ...

Oh, no, duck! Here comes the inevitable piece of chalk hurtling me-wards. 'Crail! You're not thinking outside the box! A week's detention to help you see the light'.

15 minutes of fame

Looking forward to a Monday evening spent with 'Coronation Street' [twice], 'Eastenders', a schooner or two of sweet sherry and an undisclosed number of ffondant ffancies, one found oneself faced instead with ... homework. Quite a few of us work in libraries, you know, and don't have sound-cards.

So, we viewed somewhat polarised examples of vids. Pleasant enough evening. The slick and funny tended not to be terribly informative, or too distracting to get the real message across, eg the Harper College tour. Some were just the usual clever YouTube stuff and not really of use to us. Great, but deeply superficial, as dear Andy used to say. I did enjoy 'Farting in the Library', though cannot yet work out how to introduce it into user ed. The genuinely informative for the nervous newbie [the Oxford tour] looks like it had to be a rush-job, and nobody fancied the editing bit apart from the 'toys'.

The conclusion is - don't use other libraries' vids unless they are fairly universally acceptable [I would use 'Librarians do Gaga' in user ed, because it is pretty amusing and does make some useful points], and don't do our own unless we know it will be good. And have the time to spend tedious hours alone and eventually friendless ['WHY did you cut out my Marlene Dietrich routine?'] re-viewing and editing, trying to make silk purses out of sows' ears.

However, I do have to say here that Huw Jones' and XXX's [don't know who he was] production about academics expectations for the future, hastily presented to fill a gap at Libraries@cam in January, was exceptional [in both senses of the word]. Straightforward, well-shot, to the point. Of broadcastable quality.

Trouble is, all this meedja-tart stuff looks terribly tempting. We know our libraries, we know our resources, we know what people mostly ask us, how hard can it be? And we do have half a Marlene Dietrich song waiting to be used. It looks like it would be fun to do, and relatively easy, but honestly it isn't. For a place like the National Archives, which is genuinely baffling, a series of videos or podcasts would be perfect, saving the harrassed staff from repeating themselves hundreds of times a day, and reserving their skills for the challenging enquiries. Probably OK for a big library like the UL, where new users come in sporadically and tours aren't necessarily feasible. Sad but true that many people feel intimidated entering libraries, and many more feel uncomfortable, and preface enquiries with 'Am I being stupid...?'

Truth be told, we do have a jolly good idea for a blockbuster, but Johnny Depp has been awfully rude and has not replied to my increasingly-desperate missives. If he managed to do 'The Fast Show' I cannot honestly see why 'What's Big in the Library?' is such a problem. Perhaps he doesn't do nudity. I suppose I could rewrite the sex scenes. Or ask Viggo...? Or Jedward. Yes, I'm having a vision.

Podcasts? Again they'd have to be good. As Phil Bradley has pointed out, one can normally manage to speak perfectly authoritatively and naturally in front of students. Until faced with a microphone or, worse, a video camera, and then it's commode time [well, all right, he didn't say that exactly]. It is extremely hard to appear or sound normal, and we probably wouldn't have the time for multiple takes and complex editing. It would astonish most people to hear how many 'you knows' 'likes' and 'ums' they pepper their speech with, and how much they wave their arms about and pull faces. IT AIN'T EASY. My own dulcet tones are truly vile. Though, god knows, I would just adore to do one as Edith Evans. Or the Queen. Oddly enough, whilst vids and podcasts in a way do away with the need for physical staff, most seem to be saying 'Come and ask us stuff'.


Image: Crail presents her latest podcast 'My Life: The hurly-burly of the bookstacks, crochet and Trainspotting. Part 213: July to September 1971' to an admiring Head of Department.

Oh, and PS, anyone who subscribes to library podcasts and listens to them on the bus needs to get help fast.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Ah, yes...the M Word

The delicate subject of marketing was introduced to us last July at the user.ed@cambridge meeting. And there was a talk given in March by that charming young gentleman from Scopus, who gave us all a free book ‘A Short-cut to Marketing the Library’, where ‘furniture as a marketing tool’ was suggested. You’ll see later that I have taken this on board.

Certainly won’t be going the pencils and pens route, as this might be more appropriate for new undergrads. Nor mugs either – and a certain well-known serials supplier might like to know that getting our journals in time [or at all] would be appreciated more than getting free mugs at libraries@cambridge. Have decided on posters instead.

But, all right, seriously, if we must. What's my JOB? The most important thing is that people realise it is not about ‘the library’ or books, but about them getting information in the most efficient and reliable way available. And to '.. train people to take the intellectual initiative' as Seth Godin put it in the Prezi thingy. THAT'S the important bit. And, surprise, we tweed-clad harpies can help! I still think a real person is worth a thousand Facebook profiles.

Working in two smallish department libraries, I am lucky in that department members know that the physical libraries are right there, accessible 24/7, so there's no serious bums-on-seats issue. Yes, Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen would have a meltdown at the physical environment, but there's a cold financial wind blowing - so there's not much to be said for that. Students are mostly 3rd years and PhDs when they arrive, and they get compulsory library talks and separate www sessions, so half the battle is won already. The intention is to convey that the library is there if they need it, and I am around if they need help with finding information. The main problem is the attitude of some senior people, who insist ‘everything is on the web these days’ and ‘nobody uses libraries these days’ – ie they have their own offices and they only ever look for specific cited papers. We have to be ‘out there’ to counteract that.

[I am by the way well aware that people other than department members are potential marketing, er, targets, but that’s a different ball game]

Right, I haven't answered the question, essay returned, where's the Crail Bartle Bogle Fogarty interface in the Infotheque? How can I use all these Web 2.0 toys to help others’ information needs? If anything, it won’t be for marketing, more for publicity [= different]. Yes, yes, this is reaction not proaction, but anticipating and innovating needs time and careful consideration. Despite a lengthy period spent in several educational emporia at the bottom end of the THE charts, Crail is no specialist in the skills required. Andy’s list of possibles would require a heck of a lot of time ergo staff to set up and even to maintain/evolve. Jane has listed the updates to be done already in Zoology.

OK, so what would help MY users?
  • Appropriate info and news on the websites, via RSS if necessary, but certainly not bloody Tweets

  • Have already done but will develop:

    • Bookmarks on Delicious, that’s a definite, but for user ed, not for marketing

    • Encouraging people to organise their work with Mendeley/EndNote … and now Zotero

    • Helping them set up appropriate RSS feeds for their own research interests

  • For sure they are most interested in making their lives easier, but I do believe a good website, tied to the ‘brand’, is important, and still the most obvious place to look for information [Yes, Crail’s current websites are decidedly doo-doo but these are undergoing extensive cosmetic surgery as we speak]

  • A reasonable page on Facebook, if it’s almost an expectation, is probably a good idea

  • Blogs only for information feeds, and no more of this navel-gazing, jolly fun though it has been


And the Crail ingule ....

  • Whether I personally am on LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter is neither here nor there for the library

  • Flickr is largely irrelevant in the library context, nice toy though

  • LibraryThing is plundered but I cannot contribute

  • Podcasts, YouTube, SlideShare &c : no. Good tools but not for me, alas, being THE staff for two libraries


Oh, I nearly forgot, the posters. See how I've cleverly worked the furniture bit into the third one?





Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Eeeny meeny ... another meltdown

This is terrible. Another flaming can of worms. Don't you people understand how difficult it is for Crail to make decisions?


EndNoteWeb? Mendeley? Zotero?

I have really, really, wanted to use Mendeley, since seeing that charming young gentleman [was that Jan Reichelt?] who demonstrated it last year. Freely available, devised by PhD students, iTunes for references, not dominated by Big Boys, drag and drop for god's sake, pretty colour, what's not to like? Plus in June received notification that they are working with Caret to investigate using it as a repository.... though as Caret admit themselves, a lot of their projects fall by the wayside. However, as long as they drop Connotea that would be a start. Would like to know why Mendeley, which initially received equal billing in 23Things, has dropped down the pecking order. Is this because hardly anyone in the Cambridge libraries is actually using it apart from Isla? Interesting.....

Anyway, yes, back to the point. Some of these Web 2.0 wotsits are interesting, but can be taken or left, without our, er, clients being inconvenienced. But now we are talking reference management systems, and things get more serious. We should promote these tools ergo we have to have a degree of competency in them.

Trouble is, Mendeley doesn't quite work. Same as EndNote. Same, probably, with Zotero.

What is the point in telling PhD students to get organised and park their refs in one of these when it is all such a flippin' FAFF? If I am chucking the toys out of the pram in frustration, one can hardly expect them to stick with it. All that dropping into Notepad and converting to .ris, or dropping into EndNote and then into Mendeley. Why do I have to DO all that?

I hadn't even bothered to look at Zotero until now, more stuff on the Firefox pane, I can resiste anything but temptation etc. But oh heck, I have to confess that clicking that little booky-thing in the search box and having the ref drop in IS fabulously easy ... ergo alarmingly tempting. BUT the Computing Service warns against it for large nos of refs. So now I've got [personal] refs in EndNoteWeb, in Mendeley and in Zotero. Mostly the same ones. More Augean messes.

Ah, life was easy when you just showed the students how to drop from WoK into EndNote. Job done, sidle off before they started asking about the other databases and things got decidedly sticky.....

That's it. I'm propped up at the Hommage a Huysmans and it's only 11 am.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Big isn't always better

As Miss Jean Brodie so wisely said, 'Seven inches is quite enough' - though ostensibly she was talking about the appropriate amount to have the classroom window open. Sorry, off the point.

On ITN this morning, the news that Facebook has attained its 500 millionth member - 8% of the entire planet are on it. Maybe a Cam23er was the 500 millionth, maybe one of us will emerge unsuspecting from our place of work, we thought to the sandwich bar, but instead into our 15 mins of fame, faced with a baying press pack 'How has Facebook changed your life?' 'Are we headed for a double dip?' 'Who's going to win Big Brother?'

'Is social media a fad?' said 50% of all internet traffic in the UK is for Facebook, and Social Media Revolution 2010 said users are spending an average of almost an hour a day on Facebook. Perhaps the reason I dislike aspects of Twitter and Facebook so much is that [in my opinion] they are just too big. They have strayed dangerously from their original ethos and business interests have weasled in. As Carol says, Facebook is pretty much the perfect resource for those who are removed physically from family, friends and colleagues, and it has most of the bolt-ons you'd want for that function. But now it is so dominant, we are even being asked to believe it can operate as a creditable search engine.

Wouldn't it be interesting to stand up in front of a new group of students, show the Facebook page and say, 'Here you go kiddies, this is all you need'...? Am actually considering doing that, just to see the reaction [if they are awake, of course]. Then I'd have to do the Alvy Singer thing 'Ah, if only life were like that'.

Having a library page on it is fine - or has to be if everyone else has one - though perhaps a lot of effort to create and update a good one, for possibly little return. [The libraries listed in the 'task' have made a fine job of their Facebook pages, but it's awfully difficult to get away from that 'busy' look]. Who exactly would the audience be? As Lottie says, we have to be careful how we pitch it. Moonhare has reminded us that the LSE study mentions that some students resented libraries muscling in on their social circle. Dad-dancing again, but harmless [not like big businesses, anyway].

I attended a JISC workshop 'Maximising Online Resources Effectiveness' a couple of months ago, and could see their argument that for most universities [sic] a presence on many platforms is probably necessary. We were referred to a study that apparently demonstrates that the "words and brands mentioned most frequently on the Web" in 2009 were Twitter, Google, Facebook, iPhone, youTube. Nota bene, children, "words" as well as "brands". Obama was no. 6, Oprah no. 42 [arguably the latter at least also a brand], but the rest of the top 50 were all brands. Hmm, do I detect something ... stinky?

Remember the presentation from the launch of Cam23 - 'Is Social media a fad?' [We got that at the SCAMORE workshop too]. Lots of us probably sat swaying to Fat Boy Slim's specially-chosen hypnotic tones, eyes like Mowgli's when Kaa sang 'Trusssst in me', and at the end said 'Yeah, RIGHT! Let's GO!' Anyway, the presentation predicted "We will no longer search for products and services. They will find us on social media". It's a business proposition - We are being profiled, categorised, used, but we're being told we have control if we stick our little thumbs up on Facebook. I'm not saying it's all bad - just that we have to be careful about going where we're led, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It's related to the 'unknown unknown' phenomenon when searching for info : do we take what's thrown at us or do we find things as well?

Face in the jar by the door

As several bloggerini have said - notably Vanessa - a lot of us would prefer to keep professional and personal separate, especially if one does lead a double life as university librarian and stripper, entirely possible given who Belle de Jour turned out to be. Unfortunately the sort-of requirement to have a library presence on Facebook has made that division difficult on that platform, unless one is awfully clever with settings [I find it very hard to work out what others would actually see on my pages, even with Facebook telling me, as they make the possibilities so complicated].

Andy confesses to turning down colleagues' 'friend' requests so he can post 'full and frank' 'tired and emotional' exposes of them on Facebook [OK, I've loosely paraphrased]. LOVED his Michael Thomas example, by the way! Indeed, Crail's Head of Department no less did gently point out that acceptance of his 'friend' overture had been a little precipitate, since he could see things one might prefer he didn't [Crail Minor's antics presumably, since one's own life is blameless. Too embarrassed too ask]. Aidan has pertinently pointed out that the required use of the term 'friend' is often inappropriate. He also says "Facebook brings together play versions of lots of things that thrive better in a full-size version elsewhere". Much as it would be lovely to have one-thing-does-all, we know it ain't going to happen any time soon. We've all got several remotes at home [with the one we need of course missing], and we've all popped off on a mini-break whilst CrossSearch chuntered away [yes, I do know you can limit].


It would seem to be eminently sensible to use Facebook for the personal and LinkedIn or something similar for professional contacts. But, let's face it, Crail's already minimal chance of a career in libraries is now well-and-truly down the pan, along with the less-than-meteoric rise in MacDonalds ['No, I am NOT saying 'Have a nice day!'] 80% of employers use LinkedIn et al for recruitment? That requires some serious manipulation of one's personal details. Incidentally, LinkedIn does allow poseurs to claim they read 'War and Peace' in Russian, where Facebook does not.

Finally.... Is it just me, or does the mega-success of Facebook in particular suggest that there's an awful lot of Eleanor Rigbys out there, the stuff of 'Message in a bottle', and all those other songs people can no doubt think of, all feeling more and more isolated as we become immersed in technology?

From a secret bunker

Monday morning, never a good time, Public Face on, wrenched off the chaise longue, weaned off the Wincarnis [well, just a tiny drop on the corn flakes]. First often-unpleasant task, the in-box, the usual 'Hello ... I wanna do a PhD from your University ... and I can't afford, can you help please?' [that is not made up, by the way, merely shortened]. Still getting the mysterious announcements that people I have never heard of are following me on Twitter, when I haven't squawked in living memory [well, all right, the memory isn't what it was...]

Then the blood freezes, literally freezes. Never mind the chaise longue, fetch the commode. 'Phil Bradley is following you on Twitter'. How? Why? .....WHO?

OK, OK, it's Crail who needs her legs smacked. In detention, ASBO, scold's bridle.

MUST remember to keep my mouth shut and abide by Thumper's dictum. But the memory isn't what it was...

Image from the Wellcome Collection. And don't we think that little bell on the top is rather jolly?

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Nanny dearest

Facebook, oh god, where do I start? Or, more appropriately - Don't start me! Well, I am going to start, from a negative point of view, and hope that by the end of the week I've had the Damascene moment....
Set up personal and [2] library pages about a year ago, after it was clear from the User ed@Cambridge meeting that we libraries really should have a presence. Fine, bunged a few bits and bobs on, left it, with vague intentions of creating a fabulous page ... eventually [Yes, yes, I do know that's not the right attitude].
To one's complete astonishment, these totally naff pages attracted friends and fans. Now, there were some jolly nice young Turkish [guessing by the names] gentlemen who expressed admiration, and we've had some lovely absolutely-library-related activities in the Crail Memorial Library Moshpit [see photo] but ....what the heck got these complete strangers to these pages, let alone bother to say they liked them ????

Because of Facebook's perhaps necessary nannyish attitude, it is very fiddly finding things, adding things, generally keeping a handle. There's a Facebook Group for past Genetics Department members, in preparation for some upcoming celebrations. Reasonable function, right? But of course a lot of non-department members have added themselves to the Group, which makes invitations etc difficult, and not the one-click option Facebook claims. A Group would seem to be a good place to add photos of past events - again, good idea, right? Well, no, because in a Group you cannot organise them in folders [yes, this is true - there's even a petition on Facebook 'Implement photo albums in Groups' which they ignore] which as you can imagine soon makes a hell of a mess. Moreover, photos I haven't taken are represented as mine.
Nanny Facebook won't even let you add favourite books it doesn't like the look of or is too stupid to recognise. I didn't think saying I was reading 'War and Peace' in Russian was unacceptable - even if untrue - but Facebook did. Well, that's lost me a lot of potential friends, now. It let me say I liked 'procrastinating', but not 'dissembling'. Didn't spot the other lies, though, did it, huh? More seriously, why can't I be innocently silly, when Faceboook vigorously defends the right of 1,320 people to avow 'Raoul Moat is a Legend'? Furthermore, Facebook doesn't prevent me seeing splashed on my home page, without even seeking it out, what 17-year old Crail Minor and her friends are up to, in stuff-of-nightmares detail [...and I do mean detail].
And would someone perLEASE enlighten me as to what Phil Bradley is on about when he claims Facebook is an efficient and trustworthy tailored-information provider? Why is Facebook's weasling around in personal activities and preferences more acceptable than Google doing it? The thing that really puts me off Facebook [and Twitter], is the muscling-in on what was a perfectly acceptable social medium by business and other interests, on which another rant later.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Time, or the lack of it...

Ah, yes, LibraryThing. Getting in a bit of a panic, Thursday evening, the 'Crossroads' 140-DVD megaset still only 25% watched ... and no homework done. Beginning to wish I was flippin' Tithonus, ergo must be going mad. Quickly added a few of the vast Crail collection of homemaking manuals to LibraryThing [after the embarrassing discovery YET AGAIN that there was a pre-existing account, dormant and erased from memory], then hit a hiatus. Where in the Library [spoken a la Celia Johnson in 'Brief Encounter'] have the Fanny Cradock masterpieces gone? ... Then gave up.

Workwise, anything remotely related to cataloguing starts an attack of the guilts, as well as an agitated grab for the gin. Having to assign shelf locations to books I don't even have in front of me, Victorian and Edwardian books with helpful titles like 'My country garden' and 'Waftings of a wanderer', and LibraryThing is usually lined up on the tabs along with Google books, OpenLibrary [which I like playing with to see which phrase it comes up with when it hasn't got details of a book - Good grief? Shucky darn? Cor blimey?], Botanicus, Biodiversity Heritage Library, Internet Archive, the cataloguing resorts of the desperate. Using LibraryThing for books that few individuals or libraries still own [but probably lots of thrift stores and Oxfam Shops do ... and the Plant Sciences Library at Cambridge] has made me think more than once 'I really ought to add some of the stuff we have here to this. There must be bibliophiles out there who really do want to know about 'Daffodils I have loved''. That isn't a joke, more a pathetic attempt not to face up to the knowledge that the Plant Sciences Library could make a useful contribution to LibraryThing. But GAWD, we are talking Augean Stables. Where's Rumplestiltskin when you need him? Oops, wrong story. But there's no point in doing this on a professional level unless it's done properly. And once again I'm a bit concerned about all these little ... deposits ... I'm excreting on the web.

On a personal level, LibraryThing is a lovely resource, a wonderful community for proper bibliophiles, people who actually make it to book clubs every week and bring lemon drizzle cake and home-made gooseberry wine with them. LibraryThing has that sort of, I don't know, warm feeling about it. Just the sort of thing a mentally-anal but physically-middenlike person like me would enjoy doing and benefit from. And let's face it, you cannot get much more anal than a field for entering start and end reading dates. It's comforting to know that however schlocky the paperback owned, there appear to be hundreds of other people out there who not only own it, but have earnestly reviewed it. If I had plenty of time I would have enormous fun participating. But who on earth has? [Helpful comments about time speeding up as one gets older not required, thank you] Dare to allow oneself a breather from catching up with others' blogs [abandoned for a couple of days not because it is a chore, but because thought is required, and more avenues are opened up by all those clever people who do the tasks properly] and Google reader admonishes sternly that 'more than 180 items' are available for contemplation. Dash to the Hommage a Huysmans minibar. Hmmm, Wincarnis or Sanatogen?

Anyway, excuses over, got to gird up the loins [and we'll be needing something with reinforced whatebone or possibly steel plates] for next week's can of worms, Facebook, and the cherry bomb Phil Bradley has dropped http://philbradley.typepad.com/phil_bradleys_weblog/2010/06/google-facebook-faceoff.html Sometimes that boy needs his legs smacked.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Euphemia Dorcas Crail Upper IV H : Half Term Report

Somewhat surprisingly, Crail has worked moderately hard these last few weeks, with varying degrees of success. Crail has responded reasonably well to being prompted to explore things she should have explored of her own volition. She has found the detailed instructions given in the classroom most conducive to her own somewhat sheep-like learning style.
Google Calendar telling her nicely by e-mail that she has the day off etc, and the realisation that she could have the same, tabbed, iGoogle home page [instead of the previous three different ones on different computers] has helped her time management considerably, although e-mails reminding her of PE classes have unfortunately not elicited any response.
She has enjoyed blogging but needs to be more concise and less irascible in her comments. She has found the blogs of other pupils most useful and entertaining, and has populated her Delicious account with numerous leads to be followed up next half term.
She appears to have found the tagging exercise helpful, but has still to learn the discipline and self-control of cataloguing as a necessary component of her education.
She spent far too much time on non-productive activities on Flickr, and has yet to submit her report on Slideshare.
She unfortunately failed miserably on the Twitter assignment, and must complete her detention for failing to come up to expectations on this before the term finishes. The detention task is to tweet 100 times in 100 ways 'I love Twitter really & I am just about to go to bed after a nice cup of tasty and very reasonably priced Tanqueray gin Good night everybody' [140 characters nota bene].
She is still working on her term project - dropping RSS feeds of blogs into web pages, which she has found more difficult than she expected. She needs to persevere and apply herself to this more diligently, and refrain from calling computers names entirely inappropriate for the learning environment.
Crail has pledged to work harder in the next few weeks, but sadly we have heard that promise on numerous previous occasions.
General comment: Could try [a bloody sight] harder.
Mildred Pierce, Form Mistress
St Vitus' Academy [Motto: Apropos Nullae, Carpe Ginevram]


Marks so far:
iGoogle, Google calendar: A
Delicious: A
RSS feeds: A-
Blogging: A-
Flickr: B
Doodle: B
Tagging: B
Slideshare: C
Twitter: Fail
PE: Crail has not attended a single lesson this term and therefore has no mark

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Slideshare - The jury's out [...in fact they've run away]

Still forcing myself to try to sit on the fence about Slideshare and not jump off on the wrong side. This post has been festering as a much-rejigged draft for many days, because I feel like I'm swimming against the tide and just being old-womanish, same as with Twitter. I'm trying to like the actuality [as opposed to the altruistic idea] ... but I don't. One problem is that queasy feeling engendered by burglarizing other people's stuff. Huge fun though Flickr is, I feel uncomfortable about using images from it, CC or not [somehow Google Images feels a bit less like theft, maybe because of the type of images I'm after: Joan, Joan and more Joan]. But the discomfort racks up considerably with Slideshare, because whereas a photographer might conceivably have just pointed and clicked, that certainly ain't the case with a Ppt presentation. To knock up a decent one requires considerable reflection.
Rummaging around, it isn't difficult to find useful resources. For example:


[None of these actually embedded for reasons implied above]

But then the more I poked about in Slideshare the more ratty I got, as it seems to be populated with a lot of marketing tools [and there will no doubt be a Crail rant about social media being invaded by marketing mavens at some point], and some very odd material whose purpose is completely opaque, vanity publishing probably. Looking at teaching materials, it isn't hard to spot scans from books, and probably-not-technically-legal images, so it starts to get a bit ill-advised. Some people seem to have got completely carried away and uploaded things that clearly aren't presentations, eg research papers, so it all starts to look unfocused and rag-baggy. It is tempting to include some jaw-dropping examples of this side of the coin, but I'd like to celebrate my 30th birthday [again].
Perhaps I'll just remind everyone of General McChrystal's 'When we understand the Powerpoint , we'll have won the war' joke instead - http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/world/27powerpoint.html
So, we're being invited to plunder these offerings without being clear on their integrity. It's a bit like 'Teach yourself via Google' without applying proper evaluation. In fact probably worse. Of course, most people wouldn't dream of operating that way - but Slideshare is encouraging people to do so. Aidan advises caution on this score too in his blog. And the NY Times article does make some pertinent points about the way Powerpoint forces us to 'bulletize' [oh dear] information - could be a good thing, could be bad.
It's hard understanding why the creator of a presentation would put it on a public-access aggregator instead of their own institution's resource [oh, wait, I do know, it's one of the tenets of Web 2.0], where it could still be free-access, but tied to the 'brand' or, as Revelation 23 puts it, where it was born. I would be uncomfortable about even recommending something clearly created by someone else, let alone dropping it into a website - by the most generous interpretation, it looks lazy. I agree with Librarianintraining that having something available for those who don't like, or cannot attend face to face training would be useful - though again at the place of birth, not on Slideshare. Aside from all that, I don't tend to use Powerpoint, marvellous program though it is, at least in the library context. It's great as an aide memoire, but less so as a teaching tool [old-maidism again, since that's what students ask for].
So, much as I admire the altruism of people who put their resources up there, and the energy and commitment of people like Phil Bradley to educate us on so many platforms, Slideshare as a resource in toto has an unfortunate whiff of unwholesomeness and untrustworthiness about it. Start digging, and there's a need to get out the hand sanitiser and the odor neutraliser. And possibly the Shake'n'vac - do they still make that?

Monday, 28 June 2010

Mmmm, Delicious ... Now where was I?

[Image : Encore perdue: Hommage a Brassai, par Fifi Derangee]
Ah, yes, have to confess to using Delicious for some time now for somewhat unorthodox reasons. It is absolutely invaluable for those awful moments in user ed when, having gone off at a bit of a tangent, the path has completely disappeared [no, one doesn't use Powerpoint, but that's another blog...]; or one has got so impatient with the browser that one has clicked several too many times and frozen the whole lot; or one has carefully set up a lot of tabs, only to hit 'close all' by mistake [gin, alas, does blur the vision occasionally]. Bit of covering banter, invitation to partake of more biscuits, and no-one will be any the wiser. It's simple, it's portable, thus ideal for those of us continually on the tramp.

Even better, Delicious is also useful as a parking lot for all those 'must have a look at that ... eventually' things. Thanks to Cam23 there are now lots of extra pages of links with that useful tag 'to-do' and a helpful note telling me why I need to look at it. NOT like the teetering 'pending' pile on the [real] desk which eventually falls over and can then justifiably be moved to the floor permanently temporarily [housemaid's knee]. Seriously, Delicious has proved perfect on this occasion, because so many blogs have contained or pointed to useful stuff that needs to be returned to and thought about a bit more later. Can't do it ALL now. And can't remember ANYTHING these days.

And I'm certainly intending to use Delicious to flag up to students some of the things they might profitably consider for searching and for organising ... just as long as it could be completely separate from all those embarrassing 'to-do' items....

Because Connotea is used for some courses for access to reading material, have tried that too, and feel obliged to recommend it to students as an alternative, but Delicious is easier to use. And we luuurve easy. Besides, 'Delicious' has that whiff of Soho - if not Meard Street, then Old Compton Street [could be a patisserie, could be an upmarket sex shop] whereas Connotea - well, it just doesn't send you off into a reverie, does it? [If it does, do let me know]

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Flickr as archive : The drug's don't work

Yes, this is where it all fell apart, and the fey skipping about had to stop.

It just so happens than an Important Personage had asked Miss Crail to kindly place some photos in an album, in Facebook. Some time this year would be nice. Sounds easy, sounds logical, but it turned out not to be, for a silly technical reason, and it's to do with the personal/professional split. Right, bit of an experiment - Flickr and Facebook, compare and contrast. No, Flickr cannot do exactly what is needed either, also related to the personal/professional split.

Thus yesterday was Meltdown Wednesday and not just for the heat and the football. Unhappily, toys-out-of-the-pram time coincided with some very young French interns hanging around in the library waiting for Pack Leader to show. Never mind, even if they are too afraid ever to set foot in a library in England for the rest of their lives, they will have learned some useful vocabulary. Sad to confess, Miss Crail scuttled past bleating 'Sorry! Sorry!' when she should have declaimed magnificently 'Ha! So you were wrong about the English and their bloody sang froid!'

Back to the point - sort of - Tried the help pages, the web in general, and even rushed out to the Public Library and come staggering back under a toweing pile of 'Facebook for Dummies' 'How to do everything with Facebook' et al. [Questions: How come, since these books are called 'How to do everything....' there are so many of them? And where's the chapter on 'Household chores'?] I can hear it - 'Books!!? Oh for goodness sake!'

Yes, it was time to call upon ... why didn't I think of it before? ... A Real Person!

Now, this could have been done on Twitter, but imagine all the football ... excrescences ... that would have to be ploughed through for anyone to find the question, and me to find the answer. So - the old ones are sometimes the best - a plea on ucam-lib-discuss, which the Twitterati would probably dismiss as down there with Wells Fargo. Within 10 minutes several lovely helpful people had replied, and none of that exhausting sifting and translating business. 140 characters would have been a bit of a challenge too. Sincere thanks are due to all of them, even though none could solve the problem, because what was asked to be done - can't! But those people certainly made Miss Crail feel a lot less stupid.

Flickr as resource : Walking on sunshine

[Image: Fifi Derangee]
Flickr is a playground where you can run amok for days, poking and prying, getting lost, having a whale of a time. Sat entranced by the National Library of Scotland photos - what a marvellous idea to have put them on Flickr, not necessarily the obvious first choice of location for a serious research resource.
And teeny bit naughty though Idlethink may have been, what a magnificent, beautiful, seductive set of photes Bookporn is. Doesn't it prove that, despite airy waves of the hand and declarations of 'Oh it's all on the web these days' there are still people out there who love books, and bookshops, dusty old ones too. Even more shock horror, there are people who appear to love libraries. Isn't that a happy thought?
And come ON, have we ever seen that grim dark UL corridor looking so gorgeous? I say fling down the gauntlet, and send Idlethink up to South Wing Floor 6, and let's see it turned into a golden palace.
As an artiste manquee, the concept of having a free exhibition space and possible publicity seems great, but ... allowing other people to effectively nick it...? That takes some getting used to. If it's crap I don't want anyone to see it; and if it's good - it's MINE!! As Uncle Bryn might say, 'Now let me get this straight. You mean I can poke around in your portfolio, and then help myself? Well, the things you can do these days!'
Flickr is almost as good as Disneyland ... And somewhere in there could be the Holy Grail - a colleague you don't much like in very ill-judged swimwear. They could very well feature on Facebook too, but they're harder to dig up, and there it feels like they're watching you watching them. Ah, now, if only I could find something to illustrate THAT

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Thing 8 part 1: What the....?


Right well this one will be going on to Flickr when I've done a spot of Photoshopping and thought of a more pretentious title. Working title 'Crail Minor's Bedroom as a Metaphor for Information Obesity'. She's going to kill me.

Monday, 21 June 2010

How I learned to stop worrying and embrace Gaga

Here we all are, worrying about how to market our library services. And here we all are, well some of us, fretting about user ed next term ... Problem solved, the answer was right under our noses, thanks to the Passion and the Fury!
Bet some of us were thinking of using 'Librarians do Gaga', hmmmmm? What a brilliant lead in, actually gives us some hooks.
Anyway, people, we can ditch the Twitter, the RSS feeds, the FaceBook pages, it's all redundant. Miss Crail has had a vision.
Knock 'em dead in user ed!
Start the vid, right? Start talking earnestly about how there will be a 2-hour session with a test at the end... Then OFF come the tweeds [I'm thinking Buck's Fizz .... And obviously one must plan to wear clean and moderately supportive underwear], ON goes the white wig, and then ... we start to mime and do the moves.
Imagine their little faces!
Doesn't matter if we're crap, in fact crapper the better. Doesn't matter if we collapse in a drunken heap part way through [and god knows, most of us will need a few gins beforehand] - so much the better! I'm serious.


Kevin Spacey. American Beauty. That perfect line -
'Something tells me you'll remember me this time'

....Oh oh uh-oh-woh, oh oh uh-oh-woh....


[Apologies to those who don't get the Buck's Fizz reference. Eurovision Song Contest, 1981. Britain's finest contribution to that famed pantheon of the Arts. Say no more. And sorry there are no more appropriate pictures. Flickr's not quite apposite here. But probably best you use your imagination anyway.........]

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Aversion therapy - Or, Thing 7 re-re-re-revisited [again]

Right then, I resolve, spurred on by Aidan's convincing and well-presented reasons why I should embrace Twitter, I'm going to conquer this irrational aversion. He promises no mentions of breakfast et al. Library Wanderer says I'll find 'less rubbish than you think'. And Andy Priestner has already warned me its not just about being off the Cool Wall - my ability to keep up in my job will be compromised. So once again, much in the spirit of 'And now I'm going to clean the toilet', I have a little rummage around in ... I was going to say 'the cess-pit', but I won't.

It is Saturday morning, 9.30 am, and I decide to visit a well-respected much-followed-by-librarians blog, where one might find the serious, meaty stuff. The zeitgeist before it is even zeitgeist, and most definitely not about people who are thinking of maybe going out later to get a newspaper.

What do I find? I was going to post a screen-shot, it was so ... shocking. With the identifying areas blocked out of course. I've genned up on the law of libel in the past ... but that's another story. Word picture instead. 31 tweets in the last 12 hours, all of them ... deposited ... within 3 hours. Three of them relate to possibly useful online resources [in response to other tweets, mind]. The rest are about this person's private life [including bedroom arrangements and that s/he is about to make a cup of tea] ... or football. Well, how was I to know there was a football game on? OK, fair do's, this person is a fan. Irrational but it's a free country. Sort of. Understandable perhaps that s/he is half-watching the game, half furiously tweeting [If England were in a nailbiting final - oh per-LEASE - would they still be doing that?] Of course not everyone will share the same bizarre and frankly almost socially unacceptable personal interests, but there may be a niche audience somewhere. But - does anyone care that s/he is about to have a cup of tea? Didn't dare scroll down in case bowel movements were described. Not even a mother - not even a Jewish mother - would care about the cup of tea. ... Might about the bowel movements though, come to think of it.

So, I did try, and I did go to one of the most respected tweeters. I keep opening the same old wound because I do so want to be one of the cool people, the tweetoscenti, absorbing the gently falling rays of information outside a Shoreditch pub, conducting a clever conversation and tweeting at the same time all about it. I WANT someone to Take me to the River and to Let Twitter into my Life.


Sorry Aidan and Andy, but whilst you separated your reasons for using Twitter as basically (a) professional and (b) personal interests, the recipient of even a moderate and not-too-taxing number of supposedly all-professionally-aligned bunch of tweets has to do a frankly onerous amount of editing. Like wading through Google results, only 1000 times worse, no refining the query. It is making us work. The football, the kitchen, the bedroom, and for all I know the toilet, are there. In my face. In fairness I am forced to mention that the person under fire [sorry, scrutiny] did warn in one tweet that there will be useful tweets in the day and personal ones at night.

And now I'm going to make a cup of tea, gunpowder and mint, brewed for 4 1/2 minutes exactly in a silver teapot, plus one rich tea and two chocolate digestives on a doily, which does make them taste better, and then I'm going to settle down with 'The People's Friend'. Tell you what happens in 'Daisy's new romance' later. Oh, and you probably need to know that there's a definite twinge in my right thumb and I think I might be getting a cold.

Just one more thing. Cilip tweets? Why would I want tweets about a cleaning product?

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Gentleman's Third?

Never, ever, think 'Oh I seem to be catching up with things [or Things]'. Because then comes the stern dictat that we must blog about everything, and we mustn't say 'Done that'.
Oh here we go, Crail hasn't done her English homework and is in detention again 'In Henry IV Part II, the linguistic construction of hegemonistic praxis functions as the conceptual frame for the discourse of power. Discuss, with examples. In French.'
Right, haven't blogged about Thing 2. Have done it, because the instructions made it easy. NOW I have to try to construct one myself, unpicking XML, not 'hit this button'. Bit of fun. Watch this space. Well, don't, and don't hold your breath.
Thing 4. What the heck do I say? OF COURSE I've done it or Miss Crail wouldn't be listed up there. And yes, I have read and responded to other blogs, a great and naughty pleasure when thanks to Thing 8, I now have to revise all the subject headings for all 45,019,237 books in the Crail Empire [possibly a slight exaggeration], the sun is actually shining, and the Kings College May Ball looks as if it has DODGEMS. I'd just poured myself a gin and tonic too, from the library art installation 'Hommage a Huysmans', and lit a Passing Cloud.
Other Cam23ers' blogs are fantastic, funny, erudite, thought-provoking, and Sarah's YouTube compilation makes us all look clever. I know some people have complained about the lack of flexibility of the templates, but as someone who has wasted months sweating over the design of webpages, and then resorted to templates in despair, I can only say, that even the least design-savvy of us can knock up something reasonable, so thanks for that.
There, done it, will that do?

The Systematic Randomisation of Chaos

Ah, that's a much nicer title than the slight shuffle that would more aptly describe the discussions around Thing 8 - The Randomised Systematisation of Chaos.

Thanks for providing a couple of though-provoking reads for this task. Reading the outlines and quotes from Andrew Keen's book had me agreeing with almost every point made, but we just have to accept that we can all be contributors now. Trouble is, as he has said and Miss Crail has demonstrated, a lot of us like the sound of our own voices, and we're no longer just singing in the shower. Perhaps at some time in the future there will be a way to polarise the valuable and the permanent from the ephemeral. And anyway, in 50 years time there will be social history PhD students wading through all the blogs about towel folding, the photos of wannabe Bizarre Vixens, the unintelligible tweets, and making something serious out of it. Now, would the cultural landscape have changed '..and not for the better' without the intoxicating possibilities of the internet? More people watch 'Britain's got talent' than 'Panorama'.

But he does reinforce an argument made by a lot of us when talking to students - about Google pushing forward the popular and not the most useful. One hopes the polarisation that sort-of currently exists can be maintained : Wikipedia if we want to know where the heck the Christmas Islands are, and something else more appropriate for serious information-gathering. Perhaps we, er, information professionals, should stop being snobbish about it?

Anyway, then we get to tagging, looking at our posts and maybe adding more. I've begun the task, but there's a nagging voice saying 'Yes, there's a bit about that, but should it really retrieve on a search?' It might all get a bit Penelope, a bit anal. Miss Crail might have sat through hours of this at library school, but it's still hard to do it well. It's maybe the worst bit of that already I'll-do-that-tomorrow task, cataloguing [said in downward intonation]. There are books sitting on the groaning cataloguing-pending shelf, awaiting some kind soul in the RLUK system to produce a record Miss Crail can nick, but at some point the realisation comes that no-one else is going to buy 'The epidynamics of the phyloevolution of metagenobolocomics' [£180 for 200 pages...HOW much?!] and the bullet is going to have to be bitten. What is the parent subject? What are the issues? What the heck is this book about? In what circumstances does this nugget of useful information need to be retrieved? 'Give me the thesaurus' we beg in vain. Ah, sod it, we type 'genetics' in line 650, and reward ourselves with a cup of tea and a Park Drive, a cloud of guilt forming with the smoke, in the knowledge that somewhere out there, there might be a person who would benefit from Chapter 3. 'The epistemology of normative values within systemization' [A grateful nod to Write your own academic sentence = Great resource!] Oh the burdens of librarianship, never mind the Passion and the Fury of it all!

OK, so good tagging for appropriate retrieval requires maybe just as much thinking as serious cataloguing. Not happy about that realisation.

Wouldn't it be interesting to get different people, 16-year-old Jordanfan, 16-year-old geek, man-on-the-bus, primary school teacher, 2nd-year university student, locked-in-a-back-room-for-16-years cataloguer, &c, to see how they tag the same piece? They might not have a single tag in common, but they are tagging for their own audience, so isn't that good....?

All this means Miss Crail has had a HELL of a time attempting to enhance the tags of previous blogs. The more you think about this, the harder it gets. Seriously - this is AWFUL, and the only way I can cope with these deep dilemmas is ... to be silly.



'Christina! Bring me the axe!'

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Call me the pusher

OK, here's a little cherry bomb for a Tuesday morning...

In that ideal world which may or may not be just around the corner, we identify the information we need and, instead of going looking for it, it comes to us, all neatly packaged, and just what we want!

...But can that ever happen? Despite the possibilities of tagging et al, can we ever in most cases get exactly what we want? That means no more [difficult, as ole Twitter is proving] and NO LESS. Medical researchers like PubMed because it delivers precisely what they want, but that is because largely they work in narrow fields and can use precise terms to define their requirements, with a helping hand from MESH if necessary. Great.

So we get our fix of feeds. We might want to know Jordan has or hasn't throw Alex out, or if Victoria is contemplating another child, but it doesn't matter if we don't get told the second it leaves the PR's Blackberry. But a busy researcher might say they haven't time to log-in to WoK or mess about ticking boxes on Scopus, they want feeds! OK, fine, but then we get into the dodgy realm of the Unknown Unknown. If they rely on those feeds, and quite soon they might, because they decide they haven't time for anything else, how do they know they have everything they should have?

Are we doing ourselves and the information hungry community a disservice by making it seem easy? [Actually people use Google because it seems easy, don't they?] Who will bother to do a search if they THINK they are getting what they should have via feeds? Students constantly ask for detailed lecture notes and access to lecture Ppts, and are as a general rule these days reluctant to read recommended book chapters. Part of the thinking and processing has thus been cut off. They want to be given the precisely necessary, and no more. And that seems to be what we are aiming for. Currently, that's how we refine searches etc, and we have to think about it. Not necessarily a bad thing! The recent RIN survey on the use of e-journals identified some seemingly-odd smash-and-grab behaviour at Cambridge compared to other universities. Here, as a whole we dive straight into an e-journal, grab the paper we want, and exit. We don't run a subject search, we seem to know what we want. Does that really mean Cambridge people are extra-intuitive, or that they think they are? [Oh shut up, Miss Crail, who are you to say?]

Some would say you get more with feeds anyway, the serendipitous, the information you didn't know was out there, the helpful tip, but how do you accurately pinpoint the source if you don't know the information exists?

Miss Crail sits, arms folded, glasses down nose, nostrils flared, and demands ... Aren't we making ourselves dumber? Is it really easier to sift through and filter a lot of STUFF being fed to us, than to actually go out and look for the information we need? And no, Miss Crail is not saying that because she could be out of a job.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Ah Twitter let me hate you in a thousand ways

WARNING: This is an untrammelled rant, delivered in the hopes that someone will MAKE me see the light. I just cannot find anything good in Twitter. I really don't think Twitter will remain long on the landscape, and I'm not sure we should be pandering to these mobile-device shackling tactics. Went to Emma Coonan's demo of Twitter in the UL a while ago with an open mind [well, not quite, more like arms-folded, 'Go on then, convince me'] and I'm afraid that didn't work. Poor Andy Priestner sounds almost despairing about trying to explain to unconverted oiks, and has made a great attempt to list its uses, and I'm sorry he's tried a gazillion times.

I'm still unconvinced [Sorry again]. Yes, the requirement to be concise and precise is a boon, but 140 characters reduce almost all of us to a level of brainlessness that is not appropriate. I look at my Twitter page with all its links and re-Tweets and I just .... loathe it. Don't know exactly why it is, but I have to force myself to read down, which is odd because presumably the idea of tweets being short is for people to find them attractive. This extremely adverse reaction is not provoked by the blog feeds, so it's not general info-overload. Perhaps it is because the need for brevity makes a lot of it appear almost meaningless white noise to non-cognoscenti. I don't want to learn another language. It's all back to a dark classroom, circa 1969, double Latin last thing on a Wednesday. 'Right everybody, Caesar's campaigns, page 43, let's crack on, there 600 to go. Crail, for pulling that face, construe until I tell you to stop' Mind goes blank, eyes cease to focus, bottom jaw hangs loose, begin to dribble.... Erm, does not loading it all up with bit.ly links and shortening devices aka dodges and tweaks infer in a way it is already not really 100% working?

On a purely personal level Twitter can be used to communicate, but what can you say? Not much. Unless we want to know that [well known female singer] is bored or feels fat. Should she be sitting at a family lunch tweeting about how bored she is? Should we care about such stuff? Have we nothing better to do than semi-stalk Z-listers? [And if we want to look at Demi Moore's ass, we still have to follow a link elsewhere]. Segueing on from that, we get Derek Simpson telling the world what was going on in the BA/Unite negotiations when as a senior official he should have been participating, or at least paying attention. Twitter made it easy for him to do something totally out of order, and, by the by, to commit another Twitter sin [in my opinion], the 'Am in a meeting/am on a course' tweet - what's the point in telling us that?

At the other end of the spectrum, should I put a 'Follow the library on Twitter' button on the website? 'The UL is open until 10 pm tonight'. Fine - there could be a point, but not for where I work. 'Have just been to an interesting demo of Mendeley'? Darling, they don't CARE - regurgitate it later when they want to know. Tip of the day? In 140 characters? Are you joking? And I'm afraid I can see one student leaning over another student's shoulder and saying 'The LIBRARY!!?? That's a joke, right?'

So we get to the middle ground, where a chink of light briefly hit the retina - the professional/personal interface. The useful tips, links. Fine, great, sometimes helpful, but again - is Twitter really the best forum/format for mutual help?? A blog can be a windbag's delight, and Miss Crail found herself sucked into that quagmire last week [and right now too of course], but we are getting thoughtful, useful insights [from people other than Miss Crail] regarding the Cam23 tasks. Twitter's just an annoying waspy buzz, another thing that makes us sit on our little isolated desert islands, its format actually militating against reaching out to non-believers [part of what we try to do, eh?]. The name flippin' well says it all.

Gawd, I hope I'm not the only person on the programme/in the world who thinks this way. Maybe I'm certifiable....? Please, Andy, don't throw me off the programme

Friday, 11 June 2010

I love my calendar

This is really sad, but - Oooh I'm so excited.
Google calendar just sent me a reminder to go to lunch.
This is soooo brilliant. Miss Crail can descend into complete senility and not worry about anything ever again. Except those two paper diaries she is still shlepping around.
Bonfire of the vanities [maybe] next week.

Ooh you are awful

Yippee! We have our first adult content!!!
Miss Crail sincerely hopes The Panther will forgive her breaching his attempts to keep out of the limelight, but in heck-it's-Friday mood, can we point out that Ye Olde Blogge has attracted the attention of Supernanny and a warning pops up asking us if we think we librarians can cope with anything that contains the words *ss and b*tt, and has pictures of chickens.
Sorry, am I not taking this Cam23 lark seriously enough?

Oops, sorry again: As an add-on, it has been gently pointed out to Miss Crail that perhaps The Panther himself was warning us about Bottom of the Day. Personally, as it is now Friday afternoon, it is tempting to find out what ELSE is on offer, and all in the name of Cam23.


And in the spirit of all this, here's what we will be having in Crail Castle this weekend, from the much-referred-to Fanny Cradock Cookery Course.

Please don't throw Miss C off the course. Next week, we are definitely going to take this lark seriously. But then again, how CAN we, because it's Twitter!!!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Thing 6

This is almost a Damascene moment.
Ever since an embarrassing double booking almost 2 years ago, have been meaning to use Google calendar but never gotten round to it. Now, how bad is that? ... Because, again, like Doodle, it does a simple-seeming thing in a simple-seeming way. We like easy, we like clean, we like clear. Great. And there it is, on my home page!
........So WHY has it taken me so long?
Next stop, all those exciting events in Miss Crail's very wee bibliotic empirettes. Except there aren't any at the moment. But, gosh, the students are going to be dead impressed next term!

Twitter - But that's next week!!

Getting an e-mail saying someone is following one of Miss Crail's alter-egos on Twitter has prompted another Cam23 Crisis. OMG haven't tweeted for days! [Actually Miss C doesn't think 'OMG', more likely an expletive]. She may not be the worst offender, but it feels as if a sizeable part of the web is being littered, polluted even, with begun-and-though-with-the-best-intentions-quickly-abandoned Projects [major and minor]
It is great that Cam23 is making the picking up of all the loose ends imperative, but how many balls can one juggle? it all started when Miss Crail tried to set up her blog for this course [under another alter-ego] and found she already had one. When did that happen? No idea!
The Tweets? Hopefully nobody is missing out on life waiting for the next gem from Weaslette [and what a disappointment it will be]. But how is one to DO all these things?
And how is one to comply with Thumper's [slightly altered] dictum 'If you ain't got nothing to say, don't say nothing at all', especially as one has just said pretty much ... nothing at all. Am I allowed to call it 'Blogshite' or will I get into trouble for that?

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Thingy 5

Yes, well, Doodle is easy! Suspiciously so. But, nice, we like the immediate traffic-light visual clarity of the replies [So clever to have ice cream colours, which dear Gok Wan has told us are sooooo this season]. And anyway, we cannot cope with too many complications or enhancements. Some of us like to use technology up to the level of expediency and not beyond. Heavens! We have enough to cope with already.

Unfortunately Miss Crail does not attend an awful lot of meetings [thank god] and certainly doesn't need to schedule them. But we are loving the clever ways others are using the tool, who is left-handed, who is old [well, that one was naughty], and as to scheduling a date with the wife - inspired.

Now, tell me, is it considered pretentious to use Doodle to schedule lunch with mates, or even one's tea break?

Ah, Joan - all we want to be...........

Monday, 7 June 2010

Stuck on Thing 3, and nobody's on the pull

OK, the rest of the Cam23 gang is diving enthusiastically into Thing 5 [worryingly, some are blogging about mysteries such as Thing 16 and the like...] and Miss Crail is still agonising over Thing 3.
Blogging is helpful for making contacts and forming communities, right? But part of the reason for this task is to get us to consider using it for our libraries, correct?
So here's a problem. Web 2.0 is moving us away from having to accept the information pushed at us to information we choose to pull in. Ergo blog followers are interested, so fine for that community-forming thing. However, one of our major functions is to reach out to those who aren't interested / don't know what we offer / don't know we can help /etc.
I've set up blogs for both the Genetics and Plant Scis Libraries [thank goodness for those multiple e-mail addresses as I couldn't use the same one, annoyingly] but I really haven't anything much to say, same as the Facebook pages. At this time of year, what might I say? To the Part IIs - could you rummage around in your rooms before you leave and make sure you haven't got any library books to return. I could say that, but who would see it? On the other hand, I could send out a message to the generic Part II e-mail address - and they would all get it! Targeted, and none of the other dept members would be complaining about spam. Or I could put a message on the home page of their Camtools site - or get Camtools to e-mail a message. Perfect, job done. In October I might need to tell the postgrads that they can always ask me stuff if they miss the resources talk. Targeted e-mail to all postgrads, fine. Poster, badge, t-shirt - quaint but probably works. Blog - er?
Even within this Cam23 community I am having problems with the blogging concept. Another example - I would like to connect with other Cam23ers around the Downing Site area and I happen to know a couple of them, but a connection via blogs is not necessarily the easiest way. However, were I to put out a message on LIB-LIST, I bet I'd get replies almost immediately.
So I guess I am thinking at the moment is that for a big library where lots might be happening, a blog could be fine, but, for small ones, followers might have graduated and given birth a couple of times before the next bit of news.
Correct me if I'm wrong. PLEASE correct me because I'm feeling old and unwillingly Luddite. That IS off the statute books as a capital offence by the way, isn't it?
And by the way, how to schedule a meeting on Doodle when Miss Crail is Billy No Mates? Ah, I know - e-mail. Oh STOP it

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Thing 1

Well, we like iGoogle, obviously, since when bored we can change the image behind the search box. Although very annoyingly most images seem to be random and not the right configuration for the space and to accommodate the search box. OK the middle of the image is 'lost' but can designers not cope with that?
But at Christmas you can have twinkling lights, and at Halloween all sorts of fun. iGoogle is also a necessity for that 'to do' list and for mainlining to Wikipedia, something we hypocritically tell students not to do [or use Google for that matter.....]

Anyway, I'll show you mine [boring at the moment] if you show me yours.


Well I've added a bit more stuff now, and have even reluctantly ditched Jimi [why doesn't Pete Burns get a theme?] and I like it much more now, all brooding and grey


Since we like cool and clean, and not bombardment, NetVibes offended our delicate sensibilities a little, and we quickly closed the page and went for a lie-down. Returning later, was eminently shocked to find the little bugger already has us pegged and went straight back in, having the temerity to tell us what we want [...well, fair do's, it was a demo]. But - darling, sod off, let ME decide. Attack of the vapours. Couldn't face doing a compare and contrast screenshot, because that would involve too much chopping, even with all the tags, though god knows we felt like doing a bit of chopping. PageFlakes was kinder, soothing us back to sanity, presenting a vision of order. But fear of the unknown interjected : one has stuck with iGoogle for years, why change? Naughty, lazy, not entering into the spirit of things, but true. And why does one have to CHOOSE? Can't I have both? Probably clever people can, but Miss Crail is a 'click on this button and it will work' kind of person. But to illustrate how dopey Miss Crail is...Working in 2 departments and at home, it had never occurred to actually have just one page with tabs. I had 3! So now I have 1 and can leave messages to myself at home to bring tea bags to work on Monday &c. Gosh, the things you learn! But I have got to stop fiddling and faffing [As The Passion and The Fury so aptly puts it] with things............

At the back of the pack, as always

Gawd, I'm EXHAUSTED reading all these blogs. How does anyone except Phil Bradley find time to do all these things? Now I understand that Bing ad on the teevee. Too much information?..or too flippin' old?

Miss Crail WLTM partner

Miss Crail left the 23 Things launch party early, before a game of Postman's Knock was suggested. Thus she has no partner/s.
WLTM similarly non-techie person, preferably working geographically close to the Downing site, for meetings, mutual help and fun. Not looking for a serious relationship

Thing 3

What do I expect to get from 23 Things?
By exploring and actually using to a certain level some of the current easily available tools, I hope to decide which are most appropriate for the 2 very small libraries I work in [probably only some are]. It is sometimes helpful to be 'encouraged' to try things one otherwise thinks there isn't time to mess with.
Plus if we all sing from the same hymn sheet there might be more consistency across the libraries, and we might meet the web expectations of users better.
Lucky it's almost vacation time, though, or it would be hard to find time to do all this...
What is my experience of Web 2.0? Absolutely zilch, darling, still get told off for thumbing the HTML manual. Lead me into the garden, Maud.....

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Cat's cradle already

The memory is not what it once was. In attempting to create a blog, found out I already HAD one I'd completely forgotten about. Lucky there were no followers...
Seem to have more than one Google accounts, about 10 e-mail addresses, three Facebook pages etc etc. Well, those are the ones I remember...