Monday, 30 September 2013

Metadata MOOC - Microformats

Still enjoying the Metadata MOOC, learning about microformats right now, including hCalendars which allow you to do this:

Gathering of people who have not watched Breaking Bad at To be confirmed
This is a made up event to test how an hCalendar works.
Categories: Breaking Bad, hCalendar, fake events
This hCalendar event brought to you by the hCalendar Creator.

I am ridiculously pleased with myself for understanding the code behind that! It looks like this:

<div class="vevent" id="hcalendar-Gathering-of-people-who-have-not-watched-Breaking-Bad"><time datetime="2013-09-30" class="dtstart">September 30, 2013</time>–<time datetime="2013-09-30" class="dtend"></time> <span class="summary">Gathering of people who have not watched Breaking Bad</span> at <span class="location">To be confirmed</span><div class="description">This is a made up event to test how an hCalendar works.</div><div>Categories: <span class="category">Breaking Bad</span>, <span class="category"> hCalendar</span>, <span class="category"> fake events</span></div>

<p style="font-size: smaller;">This <a href="">hCalendar event</a> brought to you by the <a href="">hCalendar Creator</a>.</p></div>

Metadata is a love note to the future

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Next Quest: Metadata

'Metadata' is a scary word. I kind of know what it means (and can trot out the standard 'data about data' definition) but I don't properly understand it. So when I spotted that Coursera were offering a MOOC on Metadata I signed up.

Week 1 began yesterday and I am very surprised to say that it's great! Informative and enjoyable and the instructor (Jeffrey Pomerantz of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) has a great presenting style - so much so that I watched all the video lectures instead of shouting out random answers to University Challenge.

Knowledge of HTML is a prerequisite for the course but I'm glossing over that slightly - I can learn as I go along, right? And I was pleased to find that I scored well over 60% on the W3Schools’ HTML Quiz which is mostly down to tampering with the plain text view in LibGuides at work to see how things work (and possibly lucky guessing on a few questions).

If I get time I will take the free W3Schools’ HTML tutorial in parallel with the metadata MOOC. If not, I'll let you know how I get on!

Metadata Man
(Image from Mel McC's Flickr photostream under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Sunday, 25 August 2013

P2PU Open Research or-3: How Can We Research Openly?

Ooh, more new things I hadn't heard of!

Google Fusion Tables look very interesting, I'm sure I can shoehorn them into a piece of work in future (look out world, cue evil laugh...), but for now have a read of this description of how to use a visualisation tool called Gephi:

The image below (from Matt Biddulph on Flickr) shows what Gephi can do:
The true continents of the world (version 2)

My Britishness slips again as once more I say...awesome!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

P2PU Open Research or-2: Who's Working On It?

A few months ago I had a Eureka moment when I finally understood how valuable Twitter could be. I mostly use it for finding out local information, headline news, and information relating to open access (such an interesting life I lead).

There are 2 people whose tweets I particularly look forward to reading: Greg Jenner (@greg_jenner), the Horrible Histories historian, and Jon Tennant (@Protohedgehog) who is "PhD-ing with dinosaurs".

Jon Tennant is a great 'open' advocate; this is how science should be! On his blog he talks about the Palaeobiology Database:

The Paleobiology Database seeks to provide researchers and the public with information about the entire fossil record. It has expanded continuously since 2000 thanks to the efforts of 340 paleontologists from around the world.

He uploaded his 9 month PhD report to Figshare and, via Twitter, has massively increased my knowledge of, and interest in, open science.

Jon Tennant, I salute you!

P2PU Open Research or-1: What Makes it Open?

Open Research is the next logical step forward from Open Access and Open Data.

Open Access enables you to share your research findings with everyone.

Open Data lets you share the data you have collected with everyone.

Open Research allows you to share not only your complete methodology and software code that you are using to obtain your data, but also allows you to share your data as you are collecting it. Faster results, greater collaboration, reproducible experiments, further scientific advancement.

Want an example of how this works? Have a look at the Open Research Exchange.

Data and Merlin
I can haz data
And I can haz data too
(Photo from Melissa Wiese on Flickr)

Sunday, 18 August 2013

P2PU Open Data od-4: What Can I Do?

Now bear in mind that I'm British so I should be saying "this is rather good, chaps", but in fact it is awesome!

I've signed up to SciStarter so I can contribute to scientific research from the comfort of my own home. There are so many interesting projects listed, including Notes From Nature (transcribing labels of historical museum collections) that I've got bookmarked to contribute to when I have more time, and Treezilla (mapping every tree in Britain) but I was disappointed to find projects listed that had finished, and projects that involve further registration instead of the SciStarter login being sufficient.

I have just taken part in the VerbCorner Project, answering questions about the use of words. You can login or take part anonymously and it's great - challenging enough to be interesting, but not so hard that it is demoralising. So thank you SciStarter for linking me with the project and making me feel I have contributed!

P2PU Open Data od-3: What are the Current Issues?

Task 3 this week is:
Perform online field research about an Open Science Data Community, pinpointing a specific issue around Open Data that is being discussed right now. Note the following: What is the issue at hand? Who is talking about the issue? What organizations/institutions do they represent? Where can we go for more information about this issue?

A search on Twitter using the #opendata hashtag and a couple of idle Google searches (delayed slightly while I put the hood of my jumper up and couldn't resist doing a Sith lord impression - chilly and rainy in south England this evening) drew me into reading about issues relating to where data should be stored.

I have a vague awareness of the background to this at my place of work (not the Death Star, fear not); the University of Southampton was involved in a JISC project from 2009-2011 titled IDMB: Institutional data management blueprint that led on to another project, DataPool, both of which I was aware of but not knowledgable about.

From this the decision was made to use the existing institutional repository, ePrints Soton, to store datasets, as explained here. I know a bit about this because I helped test the ReCollect plug-in that deals with the data deposit workflow.

But how do people know where to find or deposit open data? Should it be in a subject repository or an institutional repository? The good news is that there are a lot of open data repositories, as listed on the Open Access Directory (OAD) wiki. The even better news is that there are a lot of people out there who know a lot more about it than me.

Death Star II

Thursday, 15 August 2013

P2PU Open Data od-2: How Open Is it?

For this task we were asked to assess the openness of one of 3 specified repositories. I chose the NASA Life Science Data Repositories (well, who would turn down the chance to look at stuff related to space? It's way up there with dinosaurs and cartoons from the 80s).

The 'about the archive' section states:

NASA's Life Sciences Data Archive (LSDA) is an active archive that provides information and data from 1961 (Mercury Project) through current flight and flight analog studies (International Space Station, Shuttle, bed rest studies, etc.) involving human, plant and animal subjects. 

Much of the information and data are publicly available on this site. Some data are potentially attributable to individual human subjects, and thus restricted by the Privacy Act, but can be requested for research.

Sounds good so far, so let's check...

Can you view the datasets at no cost? Must you sign up to view the data?
I checked several datasets; all were easy to view (as an Excel spreadsheet). I did not need to sign up.

Is there a tool on the website for you to view or manipulate the data?
I don't think so (although I'm not entirely sure what I'm looking for), but all the data I looked at is in Excel spreadsheets which are easy to manipulate.*

Can you download the datasets from the repository?
Yes, all the ones I checked could be downloaded.

Are the licenses for the datasets clearly marked and visible? What licenses are on the datasets?
I could not find any license information. I tried doing a full-text search for CC-BY then a search for "public domain" but both returned no results. I assume the datasets are freely available for re-use but it would be good practice if this was explicitly stated.

The LSDA site also has a photo gallery but again I could not find any license information, so here is a CC-BY-NC licensed photo from Flickr:

Space Shuttle Endeavour Over Earth (NASA, International Space Station Science, 02/09/10)

*by those who know what they are doing, not by me just in case anyone has plans to give me a load of spreadsheets!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

P2PU Open Data od-1: What is Open Data?

New territory for me this week after the comfort zone of open access last week, and our first task is to define open data in our own words.

Open data is freely available to anyone (either under a CC-BY license or equivalent if required or in the public domain) so it can be reused and redistributed without restriction. The benefits are huge; opening up the availability of data sets provides more research and collaboration opportunities. Barriers are where to store/find the data, the quality of metadata, and the format the data is stored in...oh, and persuading people to make their data open!

I would rate my knowledge of open data 2 out of 5.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

P2PU Open Science: oa-2, oa-3 and oa-4

OA-2 - How Open Is It?

For the oa-2 task we were asked to assess the openness of an electronic resource, such as a journal article. I selected mine by Googling "chocolate and journal article" and clicking on the first link to an article rather than a news resource that came up:

Linthwaite, S. and Fuller, Geraint N. (2013) Milk, chocolate and Nobel prizes. Practical Neurology 13:63

So, how open is it?

Reader rights: restricted to subscription only

Reuse rights: None: "BMJ Group offers the Copyright Clearance Centre's Rightslink licensing solution for ALL reuse permissions". So I could pay £337.66 to use the article on my website for 3 months.
Copyrights: held by the publisher: Copyright © 2013, British Medical Journal Publishing Group
Author posting rights: I looked this up on Sherpa Romeo and found that Practical Neurology allows the archiving of a pre-print on an author page or institutional repository. Post-prints can be archived with a 6 month embargo (Sherpa Romeo states 12 months for PubMed but Sherpa FACT states 6 months). The publisher version may not be archived anywhere by the author.
Automatic posting: I don't think this happens, although had the author used the journal's paid open access option it would be automatically posted in Europe PMC/Pubmed Central at the time of publication)
Metadata readability: I'm not sure how to find this out.

Looks like I don't get to find out or share any more about the strong correlation between a nation's chocolate consumption with the country's prowess in winning Nobel prizes per capita!

OA-3: Where's the OA?

I chose "spinach and health" as the area of research that interests me (felt I should counter-balance the chocolate example above).
I used the CORE (COnnecting REpositories) search tool to find my first article:
This one looked interesting (although more about health than spinach): Little, Max; Wicks, Paul; Vaughan, Timothy and Pentland, Alex (2013). Quantifying short-term dynamics of Parkinson's disease using self-reported symptom data from an internet social network. Journal of medical internet research, 15 (1).  It came from the Aston University eprints repository and had the license information (CC-BY) in the additional information field.

I wanted to try a different search tool to find my other 2 articles and selected Google Scholar. I searched for 'spinach and health open access' and chose:

Sakamaki, R. et al (2005) Nutritional knowledge, food habits and health attitude of Chinese university students –a cross sectional study. 4:4. This has a CC-BY license.

van Grinsven, H.J.M. et al (2006) Does the evidence about health risks associated with nitrate
ingestion warrant an increase of the nitrate standard for drinking water? Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source 2006, 5:26. This also has a CC-BY license.

Although I like the idea of the CORE search, Google Scholar provided more relevant and easier to refine results.

OA-4: What Can I Do?

This is a slight deviation from the specified upload (of my video describing OA-3, above) to You Tube or Slideshare. Unfortunately Dropbox, which is normally brilliant for moving content (such as a newly created video), from a tablet device to a computer is stubbornly showing an 'out of space' error.

So I have uploaded the video to Flickr instead and set the attribution to CC-BY. It should display nicely below on a PC but is a vast empty space below on an iPad so the link is
Here it is:

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

P2PU Open Science: Introduction & oa-1: What is Open Access?

The end of the New Librarianship MOOC (which I am delighted to say I get an emailed certificate of completion for as I passed all the tests... admittedly by retaking some of them multiple times but shhhh) coincides nicely with the beginning of my next online quest.

I am taking the P2PU course on Open Science:

This course is a collaborative learning environment meant to introduce the idea of Open Science to young scientists, academics, and makers of all kinds. Open Science is a tricky thing to define, but we've designed this course to share what we know about it; working as a community to make this open resource better. Think of it as a layer on top of the way science is commonly done now. Just better.

Instead of a discussion board our contribution takes the form of writing blog posts as a response to set topics, then sharing them with the other course participants. Here goes...

OA-1: What is Open Access?

Open Access refers to materials, commonly (but not exclusively) journal articles, that are free to all readers at the point of use. This relatively new movement is a change from the old model where research was funded (often by the government via the research councils in the UK) then the findings were published in a journal that was then only available to those individuals or institutions that had a subscription to that journal.

In 2012 the Finch report was published, as discussed in this article from the Guardian. This led to a new policy from RCUK (Research Councils UK) stating that as of April 1st 2013 the findings of all RCUK funded research must be made open access:

"Free and open access to the outputs of publicly-funded research offers significant social and economic benefits as well as aiding the development of new research. The Government, in line with its overarching commitment to transparency and open data, is committed to ensuring that published research findings should be freely accessible. As bodies charged with investing public money in research, the Research Councils take very seriously their responsibilities in making the outputs from this research publicly available – not just to other researchers, but also to potential users in business, charitable and public sectors, and to the general tax-paying public."

There are 2 routes to making articles open access:
Gold open access means that the publisher version of an article is made immediately available with no embargo period in a journal. This can either be in an open access (OA) only journal, or a hybrid journal that contains a mix of subscription and OA articles. Gold OA can require the payment of a fee, an Article Processing Charge (APC), to the journal publisher.
Green open access is where an author publishes in a journal and then deposits a version of the article into a subject or institutional repository. Generally publishers stipulate this has to be a post-print, so it has undergone peer review but does not have the publisher markings or layout. Some publishers impose an embargo period so the article cannot be made open access via the green route immediately.

Both gold and green OA have passionate advocates. If you are interested in finding out more, both views are aired in this Times Higher Education article from 2012.

You may hear the terms 'gratis' and 'libre' used to describe OA. These are additional to the green/gold (repository/journal) distinction: gratis OA refers to the removal of price barriers, whereas libre OA refers to the removal of both price and permissions barriers to allow the easy access and reuse of research.

You will also come across talk of Creative Commons licenses; they feature in the RCUK OA policy. This is from Section 3.7: Licences...

"(i) Where Research Council funds are used to pay the APC for an Open Access paper, we require that the publisher makes the paper freely available under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence. This is the standard licence used by open access journals, and supports the maximum dissemination and re-use of published papers, whilst protecting the moral rights of authors. It allows others to distribute,remix, manipulate, and build upon a paper, including commercially, as long as they credit the authors for the original paper and do not infringe any copyrights to third-party material included in the paper. The use of CC BY where an APC is paid is also the policy of the Wellcome Trust.
(ii) The CC BY licence opens up possibilities for new areas of research by the re-use of papers, and the content of papers through text and data mining, and for new ways of disseminating research by being able to re-present papers in innovative and potentially value-adding ways. Crucially, the CC BY licence removes any doubt or ambiguity as to what may be done with papers, and allows re-use without having to go back to the publisher to check conditions or ask for specific permissions."

Open Access logo PLoS transparent

Monday, 5 August 2013

New Librarianship MOOC: Reflections

The course centred around the various parts making up the following mission statement:

The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities.

Hmm. I'm not sure that librarians need a mission statement. If anything it should be the library that has the mission statement, then the mission belongs to all members of staff and is available to the community, rather than being a grandiose (maybe even slightly pretentious) statement forced onto the community by the librarian.

The mission statement is a little too buzzwordy for my liking; it took a 4 week MOOC to untangle and explain it all. I like most of what it is saying (although the 'improve society' bit makes me cringe) but not the way it is said.

My other issue with the mission statement is that it is so generic. It applies not only to librarians but also to teachers and parents. Maybe each individual librarian should be asked to design their own mission statement. Or maybe it doesn't need to be articulated at all but is implicit within all librarians who care about doing a good job.

I found the course hard-going at times; I need a better understanding of the philosophy and theories underlying the course (such as conversation theory) to be able to join all the discussion board chats as an equal. I did not make any ground-breaking contributions. I found it a struggle to fit in watching all of the video lectures - podcasts I could have listened to while out running (admittedly only if they were very short), or transcripts I could have read on a lunch break, or with my children constructing Lego armies in the background. I wanted to watch each video in its entirity to make sure I didn't miss anything but sometimes I got to the end with a feeling of frustration that the material could have been covered more concisely.

However, there were times in the videos when I was nodding in agreement, or frowning in thought, or being delighted at hearing the theory demonstrated in a real life example. The enthusiasm, knowledge, articulateness (how's that for an oxymoron?) and level of conversation on the discussion boards was inspiring and it is great that the course participants respect other views even if they do not agree with them. I did not expect such a high degree of contribution to the discussion board topics from Prof Lankes, not only asking questions to initiate threads but joining in debates and asking further questions.

As a library assistant I am disheartened to realise (from reading discussion board comments) how vast some people perceive the skills gap between qualified and non-qualified library staff to be. Maybe this is more the case in public than academic libraries? Or maybe I have ideas above my station.

Am I glad I took this MOOC? Yes, but I'm also glad it has finished which is not such a stunning endorsement. Do I believe in New Librarianship? Yes, in that we should constantly innovate and engage with our communities.

As a Quester (yep, definitely works!) I am continuing my MOOC journey. I have signed up for a course on metadata (Coursera) and one on dinosaur paleobiology (dinosaurs! How could you not?) (Coursera again) and an open science online course (P2PU). Bring it on!

New Librarianship MOOC Week 4: Communities

Week 4 focused on communities and was divided into 4 modules:

Module 1 highlighted the idea that libraries should share rather than lend. Whereas lending is a one way street (allowing people to borrow from a common resource) sharing embraces active contributions from the community (in terms of time, expertise and physical 'stuff', such as sharing their own book collections) - combining resources together to make a richer commons. This came back to examples of libraries as makerspaces (there is a 3 part article on makerspaces from Library Journal here if you want to find out more  - I love it!).

How does this apply to academic libraries? Other than open access via institutional repositories, and future enhancements of the repositories so they are more social and connected I was stymied. So I asked the question on the discussion board and got some great answers:

I also came across this post on Making Things in Academic Libraries on the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) blog. As often with online articles, the comments are as interesting as the post itself.

The second module, ominously titled 'kill the user' was about how best to trap unsuspecting users in the stacks...or it may have been about changing from the term 'user' (which along with 'patron' and 'customer' is very 'us versus them', seeing users as consumers) and the quest for a better term, such as 'member', 'participant' or (cringe) 'prosumer', which is a blend of professional/producer and consumer. I'm not encouraging the adoption of that last one as it sound very management buzzwordy, which will surely broaden the divide between library staff and 'users' when we seek to do the opposite.

I like talk of the 'community' to describe everyone engaging with the library but it is harder to find the perfect term to describe an individual using the library; maybe we could have an international contest to create a new word? How about 'libcomber' (library + community + member)? No? Or we could go with Quester - I would be happy with being a quester.

There were some interesting posts on the discussion board about how users of academic libraries are viewed, some copied below, although everybody agreed that anyone coming into the library would be treated with the same high level of customer service and respect:

The third module covered the deficit model of communities, which I felt applied more to public libraries than academic communities. Librarians should use advocacy (seeing opportunities and giving people skills to reach their aspirations ans enable participation) rather than remediation (trying to fix problems and inadvertently reminding communities of their failings). R. David Lankes explains this far better than I have so I will embed the video below. The module also introduced me to the concept of 'satisficing', a term I had not come across before.

Module 4 provided some criticisms of the New Librarianship approach which was refreshing to see. Although Prof Lankes offers up his theory of new librarianship I think the purpose of this MOOC was to allow us, the Questers (see, it works!) to examine our own thoughts and engage in conversations, to come up with our own theories and models and constantly re-evaluate them rather than to convince us all that he is right.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

New Librarianship MOOC, Week 3

Week 3 focused on libraries as institutions. It  involved one evening, a lot of videos and half a tub of ice cream (England was still in the grip of a heat wave then. Things have returned to normal now, grey and drizzly).

Section 1 considered the mission of libraries (as distinct from the mission of librarians): expect more than books. Books are tools in a larger mission. The issue has shifted from the old days of a scarcity of available information to a scarcity of attention. A quote from the ever passionate and enthusiastic R. D. Lankes "I don't want any more. I need to make sense of what's here." The same video included talk of the importance of advocacy as a skill in libraries which makes perfect sense but was phrased in a way that I'd never thought of before (libraries advocate for open access, for data portability, for the idea of lack of censorship etc).

It is a really interesting video, well worth a watch:

 The second video covered library mission statements. A good mission statement should be about promoting knowledge and learning, not about promoting the tools and 'stuff' we use to achieve those aims. The mission is an invitation to the community to make them want to be part of the library. I liked the New York Public Library mission statement:

The mission of The New York Public Library is to inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge, and strengthen our communities.

The library I work at does not have a mission statement otherwise I would be critiquing it here!

Section 2 was titled Why Libraries? Why are libraries a good thing for communities? The introductory blurb set this out as "This module covers the primary arguments for supporting libraries. From economic stimulus, to learning center, to promoters of democracy, there are many arguments that can be made for the continued support of libraries of all types."

I hesitate to say it because I'm sure it is a reflection of me, not of the content, but I found the videos a bit waffly.  Maybe it was because it all made such sense that I didn't want it explained in great detail, maybe I don't learn well from watching videos or maybe I'd eaten too much ice cream by that point but I would have preferred it if the videos had been condensed into one and really cut to the chase.

Section 3 considered the library as platform: "Instead of thinking of the library as a service, or collection, it is important to think of it as a platform for community innovation. In some cases it can be a digital platform, in others a physical platform, but in all cases it serves as an enabling infrastructure for the community to learn and improve."

Section 4 was on the Grand Challenges of Librarianship: "What is the larger societal aim for library and information science? Do we simply serve our communities without regard for the larger context of citizenship and the expanding information marketplace?" To me this could be summed up in one line: we seek to build a knowledge infrastructure that helps us all.

Discussion boards here I come!

Monday, 22 July 2013

New Librarianship: Community and Innovation

I like a great many of the points made in the New Librarianship MOOC. The 2 key points for me so far are:
1) engage with your community
2) innovate

How about this as a great example of engaging with your community - loaning out cake tins (or pans if you will, as it is in America).

When it comes to leadership and innovation, I read a couple of interesting stories via Twitter in the past week. The Guardian offer 5 top tips on reinventing librarians and this TeachThought post describes how librarians of the future will be kept busy.

The article I liked best though also came from the Guardian - the true value of libraries to communities. The final paragraph says it all.

New Librarianship MOOC Week 2

I'm still not sure how valuable I think this MOOC is. I'm struggling for 2 reasons:

1) I am not a qualified librarian so I don't know how much the content of the course varies from the content of a traditional librarianship course, so I don't have a frame of reference to evaluate it against.

2) So much of the course material seems so...well...obvious! Does anyone else think that?

However, I am enjoying being part of the conversation, I find the practical examples interesting, and I did dream about libraries last night so maybe my brain is processing everything in its own time and will present me with coherent thoughts at some point.

For anyone who hasn't read the course blurb here is the Introduction to New Librarianship video. The course centres around the mission statement discussed 6 minutes 20 seconds into the video:

The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities.

In week 1 we looked at the mission of librarians, knowledge creation and means of facilitating knowledge creation.

Week 2 covers communities, improving society, core skills of librarians and the Salzburg curriculum.

Do I agree that the mission of librarians is to improve society? I'm not sure; ask me at the end of the course.

One of the reasons I am doing this course is that I am fortunate enough to work in a small team that I think may possibly have the best job in our academic library, which makes me want to know more and do more. I am a library assistant working to support academic liaison, so not only do I get to communicate directly with our community (mostly undergraduate students but also researchers, academics and members of the public) by helping out with training sessions, answering queries on the loans and enquiries desks, monitoring the Ask a Librarian live chat service,  and answering emails sent to our generic address but I also have the opportunity to be involved in a whole range of other activities too. I am part of the Research Publications activity group, I have an editorial role with ePrints Soton (our institutional repository), I create and edit webpages and I work on our (very much at the developmental stage) blog.

I am on board with the ideas of collaboration, conversation, leadership, innovation and community, all aspects of librarianship I see every day at work. I agree that librarians need to become an integral part of their community, which involves (gasp) leaving the library.

I think that a vital aspect of a successful library (and therefore a successful librarian) is that is has to be dynamic. For example, we are in the process of reinventing our webpages in order to better present and share information (or knowledge?). Our current website is fairly static and text-driven, and any changes that are made are not shown on the live site until the following day. We are moving to using LibGuides which offers a much more exciting and flexible way to display anything we want it to. It reminds me of a blog in that any changes we make go live immediately, and far more library staff will be able to write and edit the pages than previously. We can create videos or presentations and embed them, and reuse content on relevant pages at the touch of a button. It will be easier to use the webpages to reach out to our community as we can also integrate our 'Ask a Librarian' live chat offer onto any page, more easily publicise our Facebook, blog and Twitter pages, have photos of subject librarians (they are real people!) and to more easily ask for feedback or contributions (LibGuides uses a range of different boxes that include specific types for user input). I haven't provided any links because the pages are still being created. But even when they are created they will be constantly updated and improved; change is good. Scary sometimes, but good!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

New Librarianship MOOC

So after enthusing about the Ancient Greeks MOOC that I completed earlier in the year I've signed up for another one. This one is called the New Librarianship Master Class and is run by the School of Information Studies, Syracuse University, New York.

We're at the end of week 1 and my feelings are mixed. The platform, CourseSites by Blackboard, is not as smooth as Coursera, especially for iPad access. The discussion boards, an integral part of the course, are incredibly slow to load or refresh. I have only contributed a couple of comments, partly because I am in awe of the articulate and well thought out comments from other people on the course, and partly because of technical issues: the iPad flips back to the top of the page when I start typing, meaning I can't see the box I'm typing into!

There is a great level of interaction from the course leader (R. David Lankes) on the discussion boards, both initiating conversations and joining in with threads started by other participants. I also like following the conversations on Twitter using the hashtag #newlib.

The sheer volume of videos to accompany each module is slightly daunting. I did nearly cry when I realised how many videos there were to watch in week 1, which happened to be a very busy week for me. The course leader is enthusiastic and passionate but the Importance of Worldview and Mission of Librarians videos did not inspire me.

I'm glad I persevered though because subsequent videos, focussing on aspects of the mission statement rather than the statement itself, are very interesting, blending theory with practical examples.

I will say more about the content of the course as it progresses. I'm not totally sure what my thoughts are on it at the moment; I am very easily swayed by the arguments of others on the discussion boards. So I read a well phrased comment by X and find myself nodding in agreement, but then I read a counter view by Y and that one also makes total sense. It only happens when I don't have a solid knowledge base (on familiar subjects I can comment at length in a reasoned, rational way using reliable and valid evidence to back up my views - right  Graham??), so my aim by the end of the course is to...Have Formed My Own Opinion! If we relate that back to the course, so far I am the community rather than the librarian...

In other news, my work on identifying true archaeologists has been published, and I have made a cake:

Monday, 15 April 2013

Things 22 and 23: The End

Reflections on 23 Things
On the whole I have enjoyed the 23 Things journey. As I have given my thoughts on the Things as we went along I won't recap them again. 

All of the instructions were very well thought out and written, thank you to the Sot23 Things team for the time and effort you all put in.

I found the whole idea of reflecting on my learning daunting and it made me nervous when it came to writing my first few blog posts. Maybe if the course is re-run it could be adjusted and simplified so participants are asked to have 3 questions in mind when they blog about each thing: what you knew before, what you learn, and how you will use your newfound knowledge in future. That way participants can focus on the Things rather than feeling intimidated by the concept of reflective learning, which may be something totally new to them.
Many of the Things took far more than an hour to explore and blog about, especially the weeks where the Things related to ‘time management’ (oh the irony), ‘networking’ and ‘getting organized’.
I think that future reruns of the course could make it easier for participants to engage and keep on target if more of a community feel was developed. This could take the form of Google Drive being moved to the start of the course and participants being encouraged to write their thoughts/comments/struggles on a shared document that everyone can contribute to. This could also help if people are finding one of the Things difficult as it could function as a help and advice forum, with participants sharing their knowledge and troubleshooting tips.
Alternatively, people could be encouraged to sign up for the course in pairs and write a shared blog. That way they could split the workload when it felt too heavy for one person to manage and would be able to support and encourage each other.
Maybe all participants could be asked to create a blog using the same platform (either Blogger or Wordpress) to make posting comments on each other’s blogs easier. The instructions for turning off the annoying word verification spam filter could be provided at the start; I haven’t used it and have not had any spam (so far!).
The timing of the course was perfect for me as I got my first ever smartphone at the end of last year and it made several of the tasks much easier, especially Flickr and the photography competition (but also adding photos to my blog posts). I know the library has several smartphones and tablet devices available for participants to use but it would be very useful each device came with a set of instructions relevant to the specific tasks, such as how to take photos and upload them to Flickr, and how to access and use the QR code reader.  Again, this is the area where working in pairs or groups could be useful if participants have to get to grips with new technology and new Things all at the same time.
I would change around the order of the Things and replace a few of them with different things.  I would move Google Drive to the second week so that participants could communicate and collaborate more easily and move Creative Commons nearer the start of the course so that participants know from the start which images from the web they can use on their blogs and why.
I would join Things 1 and 2 (create a blog, write a blog post) together as a single Thing and take out LibraryThing (or maybe offer it as an optional extra) which would mean we could add in 2 different Things, maybe YouTube, wikis,  Survey Monkey, or Storify. I would also take out EndNote and replace it with Sharepoint as that has more relevance to the University of Southampton.

Thank you to everyone who has read or commented on any of my blog posts, but now it’s…

23 Things Summary, Part 2

(No video this time, just the photos below.)

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

23 Things Summary: Part 1

Mr Conehead has kindly helped me compose a poem about our 23 Things journey...

(Also shown as photos underneath as I have a sneaking suspicion that the video may not play properly on all tablet devices)

(All of these photos came through upside down and I couldn't work out how to turn them round so I Googled it - all photos that you add to a Blogger blog are automatically added to your Picasa album and you can rotate them within that, then the change gets carried through to the blog. How cool is that? I didn't even know I had a Picasa album. Still learning!)

...Part 2 is here

Monday, 8 April 2013

Flickr Photography Competition reminder

iConcede by Nicki Clarkson
iConcede, a photo by Nicki Clarkson on Flickr.
This photo is my latest entry in the technology category of the 23 Things Flickr photo competition.

It was inspired by the episode of Horrible Histories shown on the screen. I liked the juxtaposition of Luddite and technology which sums up my relationship with computer related things - I love it when it does what I want but dislike and fear it when I don't understand it.

I have entered a shameful number of photos into the competition, I'm that desperate for the stunning prize. But there's still time for you to enter and pip me to the post...

Thursday, 4 April 2013


Sausage by Nicki Clarkson
Sausage, a photo by Nicki Clarkson on Flickr.

This is Sausage. I managed to knit him in between the hectic rounds of celebrity parties that make up my jetset lifestyle. He is not one of the 23 Things!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Thing 21: Google Drive

I asked in our office whether anyone had used Google Drive and the consensus was that I meant the self-driving car that hit the news headlines a while ago and therefore no, they hadn't tried it.

Google Drive is a service that lets you store your files (photos, videos, presentations, spreadsheets and the like) on the web so you can access them from wherever you are, from whatever device you happen to be using (smartphone, tablet, computer) and share them with whoever you choose. Technical terms that you may wish to add into that sentence include 'cloud storage' and 'file synchronisation'. You get 5GB storage for free then can pay for more if you need to.

Although I haven't used Google Drive before I have used Dropbox which works along similar lines; I use it for transferring photos between my lovely android phone to the iPad or computer. As I mentioned in a previous blog post I hated Dropbox with a passion until I worked out how to use it and now I love it.

Google Drive looks to be equally useful with the added advantage that you can create documents/spreadsheets/presentations/drawings within Google Drive as well as uploading them. I tried this earlier by creating a document and sharing it with a colleague who then added to it (thank you Emma!) so I can see how it could be useful for collaborating on work.

Unsurprisingly if you try to use Google Drive in Internet Explorer it comes up with dire warning messages about unsupported browsers and an unsubtle message that it works best in Google Chrome but it did work for me in IE.

Google Drive is one of the 23 Things that I will probably use in future; this has been a useful Thing to explore.

(Photo added from Dropbox!)

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Thing 20: Slideshare

Slideshare is another one of those things that I'd heard of but had no further knowledge of. I've seen it described as doing for powerpoints what YouTube does for videos and although I agree that powerpoints can be very useful I don't spend that much time actively seeking them out.

I was very disappointed by the lack of search functionality in Slideshare and after about 5 minutes of trying to find an interesting, recent and relevant presentation on various library issues (open access, institutional repositories, 23 things) I changed my strategy and decided to look for presentations on the Ancient Greeks instead?

Why the Ancient Greeks?, I hear you ask. Well my friends, I am doing a MOOC and so far I am really enjoying it and have learnt a lot. Admittedly I am only in week 1 of the course but the lectures (delivered by video) are very engaging and I have successfully passed the multiple choice quiz that went with the learning for this week. If I have enough time I will create my own presentation about it and upload it to Slideshare but for now I leave you with an existing presentation:

I think that Slideshare probably is a very useful educational resource if you want to share your own presentations with colleagues, or if colleagues send you the link to presentations they have uploaded but the search facility is so basic it is infuriating. Because Slideshare is so popular and so heavily used it is very hard to find presentations on specific topics because it returns so many results which can then only be filtered by relevance (hmm), date of upload or file type. I searched for "University of Southampton" and got thousands of results, most of them seemingly irrelevant, whereas I was expecting to see material obviously relating to this specific university at the top of the list. Maybe Slideshare needs a discovery layer? Or maybe it's just me.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013


2:30 by Nicki Clarkson
2:30, a photo by Nicki Clarkson on Flickr.

I'm a bit pushed for time this week so in case anyone is longing for a new blog post from me here is a photo I created for the 23 Things Flickr competition. Normal blogging service will resume soon!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Things 19 and 20: Wordle and Tagxedo

I used Wordle in a previous blog post, not realising it was one of the official Things.

Wordle lets you generate word clouds using either your choice of words, or using text it takes from a website. I created the following by entering my blog address as the URL:

It's free, it's fun. it's easy, you can change the font and the colours and the orientation of the words without any effort at all. And best of all:

How generous is that? Thank you, you can come round for tea and cake any time.

On a similar note, Thing 20 is Tagxedo which also allows you to create word clouds in the colour, font and...wait for it... shape of your choosing, such as:


or even

How great is that? Plus:

Mr Tagxedo, you are also invited for tea and cake. I thank you for your work.

Thing 18: QR Codes

Until last week I had never used a QR code. I was kind of against them in principle because they use technology that is not available to everyone (you need a smartphone or a tablet device to read them) and that goes against my inner moral code.

However, I had a flash of enthusiam for QR codes, caused by 2 things:

1) I was mulling over ideas of photos to submit to the Sot23 Things Flickr competition and I had a flash of genius: why not create a photo of a QR code that leads to a hidden page on this blog, to enter into the Technology category. Not being one to let little things like never having used, let alone created, a QR code stand in my way I immediately set about using my trusty iPad to create my (soon to be) awardwinning image:


I then had to download a QR reader app to my smartphone to test it worked, which it did. For those of you without QR readers, this is the secret page if you are interested.

2) I was cackling gleefully to myself about the above flash of genius when I went to collect my children from school and got chatting to the headteacher (I move in high circles). I mentioned QR codes which led to him explaining how they use them in school: they have QR codes next to many of the wall displays and the children use school iPads to scan the codes and find out further information about each topic. He was genuinely enthusiastic about it which must have been contagious because I can now see how QR codes can be a useful tool.

However, I am still a bit dubious about using them in the University of Southampton library system purely because they are not accessible to everyone. I see that they could be a useful add-on but think we need to be careful to ensure that the same information is easily available to those users without the technology to read QR codes.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Thing 17: Creative Commons Part 2

I think it's probably against the law for me to complete 23 Things without posting at least one photo of a kitten, so...

Sleeping baby cat
This photo came from Wikimedia Commons and the photographer has kindly waived all copyright.
Isn't it one of the cutest cat picture you've seen on the internet in the last 2 minutes?