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.