Friday, 30 July 2010

Global markets

I'm lucky enough to have a job where marketing matters: all the projects I've worked on have been externally funded. Not only do we have to market projects to potential funding bodies, but increasingly these funding bodies demand "supporting statements" from relevant academics, explaining the value of a proposed project. For example, the Tower project produces catalogue records for "non-academic" books published in the nineteenth century. The project is funded partly by the Mellon Foundation, but as part of the grant application process we have to ask academics to write letters of endorsement for the project. Since the Mellon Foundation only funds projects of international academic importance, it's more effective if the academics are not all from Cambridge.

So marketing matters - how well are we doing it? The 'Cambridge University' brand is a strong one and we rely on it heavily. The UL senior staff have many international contacts that we can call on. I have to admit that personally I could do a lot more, especially on the networking front. If you haven't built up contacts over the years, it's more difficult to approach academic staff and ask them to write an endorsement for a future project (though Cambridge staff seem pretty tolerant of this). As I work a few hours a week in the UL Rare Books reading room I must confess to "highjacking" readers who request several books from the tower and telling them about the project. Conferences held in Cambridge are also a useful way of meeting relevant experts, even if this sometimes feels a bit like stalking. On the web, we've had a web page for the Tower Project for a few years, it's a way to showcase some of the best images from books in the tower, but having worked even this far through Cam23 I can see we need something interactive. Which will be:

The Tower Project blog. Work has already started on this (not public yet, so don't rush off to search for it) and during next week we'll be trying out various looks for the blog, identifying stuff to write about, and setting up defences against spam comments (had no idea these existed till this week). The great thing about a blog is that people can comment and have some sort of online conversation about what the project is doing. The Tower Project featured in Mary Beard's blog back in 2006, and that post is a great example of how to connect funding bodies, academics and libraries, and attract comments.

And here's a preview of one of the things we'll be blogging about:

The cot / M. Waterson.
London : Dean & Son Ltd. ; New York ; Philadelphia ; Chicago : Wolf & Co., [1895?]
Gold-decorated paper and cloth structure forming a three-dimensional cradle, with a book of illustrated verses forming the child's bedding. The whole structure also folds flat.
Fetched to the Rare Books reading room. And that's not grass in the picture background, only our strange office carpet!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

From chained books to linked librarians

Following my previous post, which was about my entrenched opposition to using Facebook at work, I can blog about LinkedIn with a refreshing lack of prejudice.
Having looked around the LinkedIn site and read the article from State Library of Ohio, I found it attractive, chiefly due to a sense of purpose. LinkedIn knows what it's there for. It's there for business, with just enough personal chat to make it friendly.

I have no idea whether it's an effective means of business communication: few of my friends had heard of it. One friend was actually on it, she was advised to join after completing a Skills for Enterprise course. She hasn't actually gained any clients from it but finds it is a useful way of seeing what's going on in her world of small business start up and connecting with other professionals (= competitors) in her local area. I would certainly look at it when updating my CV, you can see the language people are currently using to describe their jobs and activities.

But even more useful would be LinkedInLibrarians, just for librarians/information sector workers or whatever. It may even exist, or there may be something out there that performs the same role. Anyone know of anything? I know there are Facebook groups, web pages, Twitter etc but I do prefer the professional style of LinkedIn.

Facebook and libraries

My attitude to Facebook has been the same for a while: I use Facebook for real life (it is possible to have one outside of work, honestly) and I don't intend to create a sanitised version of that life, not even to attract future employers. I wouldn't try to contact a work colleague or library reader via Facebook any more than I would turn up at their home. This attitude clearly isn't going to be useful for networking but I'm happy to use other means to get in touch with people.

However, many librarians see Facebook as another opportunity to pursue their elusive customers. "Facebook is used by lots of people, so let's use it to contact them." Well, so is Tesco, but I don't plan on camping out there with a library poster.
I'm not yet convinced of the need for a Tower Project Facebook presence. There may come a time when a cool professor laughs at my antiquated email request to meet her in the tea room, and I'll have to FB her instead but I'm not there yet. Other people are doing it very well, judging by the Facebook pages for eg. Jerwood Library at Trinity Hall, and the Classics Faculty Library.

Library Thing

I seriously considered demanding an official exemption from this Thing. A site where you can spend your (constantly shrinking) non-working hours cataloguing books? You might as well ask Tesco checkout staff to scan in the barcodes of their kitchen contents every night. So I admit this may have influenced my opinion of LibraryThing. But my initial impression was that it wasn't great.

It was slow: when I searched, the "loading" bar kept appearing as if groaning under the effort, then there were further strained pauses while it sorted the results.

It didn't have catalogue records for the books I own. It's probably workable if you only own books published after about 1980. I did like the idea of the book covers but I couldn't find any for books that I own. Some people include DVDs, which is confusing. There are subject groups that interest me but I don't see myself discussing ancient history with someone called bookmonk or hyppo. I tried looking for records for books in the UL tower, with some idea that we could use the dustjacket images in publicity for the Tower Project, but still no records.

However, I had the idea of looking for books I might want to read or own and I have to say it was a lot more rewarding. There were far more records for modern books, the majority of them with dustjacket images. It's a visually satisfying way of keeping a "wishlist" online. I put together a possible reading list of books by Jon Stallworthy, who dazzled me by quoting three times from Horace in as many minutes at Tuesday's Sassoon exhibition opening and generally looking like an Oxford don, probably played by John Gielgud.

Then I noticed the Currently reading option and thought that might be something I'd like to talk about. So I've put my current reading there and I'll see what happens. Will I be contacted by other Lindsey Davis fans?

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Vanessa is on holiday

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Reflections part 2

Flickr is definitely my favourite thing so far. I love the possibilities that arise from the interaction between word and text. And despite my doubting attitude to tagging, I have to say that I've been proved (a bit) wrong:

In my previous post I started to write some reflective material about Cam23 so far. I searched Flickr for keywords "reflection woman mirror", expecting to find pictures of a woman looking in a mirror. But then I fell in love with this photo of a woman and her reflection. And here's the thing: Library of Congress had allocated subject headings

Airplane industry
World War, 1939-1945
United States--Tennessee--Nashville

but all the things I'd searched under were listed not in the LC headings but in the tags on the right hand side. Someone had the imagination to see that it was a picture of a woman's reflection in a mirror and tag it accordingly.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Mirror, mirror ...

(Woman operating a hand drill, 1943. Photo courtesy Library of Congress)

In my first post I mentioned the blog Random acts of reality

Recent posts about training and learning on that blog have been outstanding. Reynolds writes forcefully about the need to move new technology skills from the "nice to know" category to the "need to know". He writes about the need to develop yourself: "the only development you can be sure of getting".
Having followed 23 things so far I know he's right.

Looking back, it's been hard work. Re-visiting my own blog posts, I can spot the things that I reviewed when I was tired and grumpy (Delicious in particular, written up late Friday night and early Saturday morning). But if you're not careful, this becomes a reason to do nothing, forever postponing activity until one's feeling fresher/ had more coffee etc.

I've learned a lot of new things as well as the web skills. Apparently, according to the VARK questionnaire, I'm a "follow the written instruction" type of person. But while doing 23 things, I've been amazed by how much I can learn by simply asking other people. This hasn't been part of my learning strategy in the past, but it will be in future. For example, reading about other people's learning experience in their blogs has been the thing that has kept me in this programme so far. I have loved reading about how people have approached learning a whole lot of new things. I never realised I was surrounded by so many creative and talented and downright determined people.

So, the future: I know now that there's a bigger pool of expertise than I ever realised, right on my doorstep in the UL. Future resolution is to use it. I hope this will feed into work and help me get a lot more done.

Friday, 2 July 2010


Delicious. Well, I can think of more delicious things. It's OK. It's likely to be useful as I can work on up to 3 different PCs depending on which dept I'm working in, so I can track my bookmarks across different machines. But I'm not sure it's worth yet another log in/password. According to Yahoo, all sensible usernames on the planet had been used by other people, so I've ended up with the sort of pretentious id (Italian opera aria) that usually really annoys me. And I can only just spell it. It's just about worth it because every time I type it I remember Juan Diego Florez singing it and the usually sedate opera house shouting like a football crowd.


Wow, I think this is called synergy! I did a little exploring on Slideshare and found this presentation which is an introduction to Twitter!
I found on Slideshare what's become a familiar web 2.0 situation: there's a lot of stuff there of varying quality and it's tedious wading through it for something authoritative. I'm not sure of the source of some of the material - surely some of the presentations are in fact corporate advertising? Which could make them less reliable. Investigating all this is time-consuming. I think it would be fine for a topic you already knew something about and didn't want to re-invent. Looking at the range of presentations on web 2.0 for example, I would choose one by a person or institution who already has an established reputation in the library world. But I don't think I would risk using Slideshare in the situation where I tend to need it most - the times when I have to acquire basic knowledge of a topic for a tight deadline.
Some of my resistance to Slideshare is a personal dislike of Powerpoint presentations, dreading another hour of my life wasted by someone explaining the bleedin' obvious. But like all these things, it's a useful way to see what's out there, especially the way corporate presentations differ from those in the library world.