A babe in the wood

A Lass in Libraryland thinks it is probably time to review her experiences in the world know as 2.0 and how their use has affected her work-a-day world.

120px-Aiga_toiletsq_women_inv_svgALIL originally intended to do a bit of professional tweeting (finally being encouraged into action as a result of an article by Phil Bradley in the April ’09 issue of Update), the initial wish simply to make contact with other library professionals hanging out in the libraryland cloud.  However, having taken those first few steps into the Twitterverse ALIL was propelled headfirst into the wider world of web 2.0.

Since ALIL started this blog back in March 2009 she has found herself exploring and getting to grips with a number of 2.0 tools, almost a year has passed and she finds herself with two online identities, two blogs, two domain names, an iphone, apps, contributing to wikis, three Twitter accounts, a Netvibes page, a Tumblr page, need we go on?

So the question we must ask is has ALIL found her wonderings in 2.0 world useful? And have they altered the way she works?

The simple answers are yes and yes!  From being a simple Tweeter ALIL has become much more confident with the tools that are out there and is not scared to try out new ones.  On both a personal and professional level she is finding many uses for the 2.0 tools which she has stumbled across and is finding that they are altering the way she works on a daily basis.  Her library users are much more informed and her ability to communicate with them is faster and much more interactive.

To be blunt A Lass in Libraryland can’t remember what life and work were like before that fateful day back in March when she first dipped her toe into the pool known as 2.0… little did she know it would turn out to be an ocean!

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Blank

emptyheadA lass in libraryland is having problems deciding what to blog about next, her mind has apparently gone blank.  The students have finished for the year and most of the academic staff have waltzed off on their festive break, the building is deserted and company scarce… you would think now would be the time to put finger to keyboard and wax lyrical.  Apparently not…

Library roots/routes

RootsRoutes bw shutterstockA lass in libraryland thought that it was about time she added her two-penneth worth to the Library Routes Project which was started by Ned Potter in October 2009.  The idea of the project is “…to bring together the thoughts and experiences of information professionals on how they got where they are today, and why they chose to work in libraries at all…”.

Roots

Having been plucked from the bosom of Northumbria at a young age and thrust against her will into a childhood in the south, ALIL found relief from the horrors of being a ‘northerner’ in a southern land where she could.  The world of books proved a wonderful escape and so a lifelong love of the written word began. Despite dabbling with ballet, the violin and the piano as a child (and lapsing in them all) ALIL always came back to books and remembers the local library as a nice place to be.

During secondary education, which is not a time ALIL will remember with fondness, she discovered a love of history and theatre studies managing to drag herself through her school years with their help.  Difficulties arose when her two primary A’level choices clashed on the timetable and a hard choice had to be made.  History was sacrificed for theatre and sociology and design where settled on to make up the numbers.

Not going to university was never an option and so ALIL began to mull over her HE options post-school… she pondered the wonders of studying theatre or stage management, speech therapy or something to do with books.

ALIL can thank Mrs Thatcher for not being able to follow the theatre route, the country was in a bit of a state and unemployment was on the rise – it just wasn’t practical to run up student debts training for a career path where employment opportunities would be especially limited upon graduation and competition fierce.  Speech therapy just didn’t fit (for more reasons than ALIL knew at the time) and so something with books became the name of the game.

So after speaking to the school Librarian ALIL filled in her PCAS/UCCA forms for Librarianship courses and was offered a place at Leeds Polytechnic, School of Librarianship.

Routes

Despite applying to study for a degree in Librarianship to ALIL’s (temporary) horror the course title was altered prior to her commencing her studies… come September she found herself studying on the new Information Studies course at the School of Library and Information Studies.  Although she would have liked to spend all of her course studying the more traditional skills of Librarianship the additional information/IT based modules proved useful and ultimately stood her in good stead once out in libraryland.

By far the most useful part of her three years at library school was ALIL’s placement at theBritish University Film and Video Council (BUFVC), which was then housed in a sweltering office in Greek Street, London. ALIL spend a wonderful few weeks working with a really lovely bunch of people (e.g. Jim BallantyneMarilyn Sarmiento, Murray Weston and Cathy Grant), was involved in compiling her first index for their journal Viewfinder(which was ultimately published), working in enquiries (great fun and very rewarding) and updating a card catalogue of TV listings. This placement opened ALIL’s eyes to the many rewards of information work and allowed her to witness firsthand a caring, helpful service at its best.

The freshly qualified ALIL spent some uncomfortable months signing on and working in the voluntary sector before she finally landed her first post – three hours a week as Assistant Librarian in an FE college.  This three hours eventually led to additional temporary hours working at one of the college’s satellite sites, where she was involved in building up the library service and relocating it to a windowless but newly refurbished basement library and IT suite. She also found herself landing an additional twenty hours a week at another specialist FE college.

First job/s landed ALIL proceeded to pick up and build on her newly acquired skills – there was progress and there where moments of despair – the joys of juggling part-time posts whilst seeking ones niche can not be underestimated.  Despite learning a lot in the FE sector ALIL knew that it was not where her heart lay – she found herself hankering for the arts/humanities and a service with the feel of the BUFVC.

Then out of the blue ALIL stumbled upon that elusive job with her ‘name written all over it’ in an HEI specialising in the arts.  The application was completed, interview attended and as a result ALIL found herself the proud and slightly overwhelmed solo owner of a small and far from perfectly formed specialist service in the HE sector.  The post was part time and after some negotiation with one of her other employers a forty hour working week split between the two posts began.

After a number of months working a forty hour week, sacrificing lunchbreaks and just not having enough hours in the day ALIL decided to give up the job in FE and rent out a room in her house to make ends meet.  This proved to be the best decision she ever made, finally she was able to put all her efforts into her new HE job and after a few months her post was made full time.

Twelve years on and ALIL is a full time, chartered, solo Librarian in an established conservatoire library service and can’t imagine working anywhere else but libraryland…

The reading habits meme

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Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?

A lass in libraryland needs both hands to read so no snacking… though a cuppa is a must or an ice cold glass of water.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

This librarylander has no problem with people marking books (if they are their own), but personally she doesn’t feel the need to mark passages or interesting points.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?

Bookmarks, scraps of paper and sometimes dog-ears (if book was purchased by her own fair hand).

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?

Fiction, historical, biography, historical, historical, historical.

Hard copy or audiobooks?

Hardcopy all the way, audio books are ok but ALIL finds it easy to lose focus listening to them.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?

Likes to read to end of a chapter, but has a nasty habit of starting just one more chapter and finding herself still reading way past her bedtime…

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?

No.

What are you currently reading?

Bleak House.

What is the last book you bought?

Ulysses – but ALIL is not bonding with this tome so far, preferred Dubliners… she will come back to this one anon.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?

ALIL prefers to read one at a time – which isn’t very practical when she mentally tots up all the books she wants to read Vs the limited human lifespan she may have left to play with.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?

Bed, but when a lass in libraryland is in the reading zone anywhere will do.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?

Tends to read stand alones but a good series is a good series…

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?

Mysteries of Pittsburgh (M. Chabon), The Forsythe Saga (Galsworthy), Jane Eyre (Bronte), Moby Dick, some Milan Kundera, and all the Austen offerings.  But ALIL’s biggest pimp would be for Silas Marner, To Kill a Mocking Bird and the not to be missed Grapes of Wrath.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)

A lass in libraryland does that all day at work, at home she likes to put her books on the shelves in a more serendipitous order – by colour, size and feel – Nina Fonaroff stylee.

Lone wolf

Having read a spate of articles on the solo librarian in the October Update (pp.28-30 & 49) and 28 September-08 October Gazette (p.19), a lass in libraryland has been pondering why she finds this lonely corner of the profession so appealing…

A lass in libraryland didn’t set out with a clear plan to become a solo, it just happened.  She was employed comfortably enough in a library with a team of three other professionals and two library assistants when her current job was advertised.  The post didn’t offer a higher salary, a bigger collection to play with or better opportunities and perhaps would have been considered, by some, to be a backward or foolhardy step for a relatively new infomaniac.  But something about the post called to librarylander and she felt sure that it was right for her and her professional development, even though she couldn’t quite put her finger on why…

Twelve years on and having had little or no company at the coalface during that time ALIL has become familiar with the daily concerns, joys and challenges of the lone librarian:

Time – a limited resource in the life of a solo. Tasks need to be done promptly, at the right time and only once

Resources – solo services often have small and/or limited resources available, whether it be budget, staffing, time or support.  These resources need to be used wisely and every ounce of usefulness squeezed from them

Isolation – access to other librarians at lunchtime or over morning coffee are non-existent in the world of the solo, professional succour must be sort outside the workplace and maintained to avoid professional isolation and the slow slip towards madness

Jack of all trades – the solo needs skills in all aspects of library service provision from classification to inductions, managing the LMS to marketing the service, acquisition to budget management, user enquiries to student support, managing e-resources to un-jamming the photocopier…  you get the picture

Two pairs of hands – all this must be done whilst offering a comprehensive and good quality counter service… this is where genetic engineering and the ability to grow an extra pair of hands can really start paying dividends

ALIL has little doubt that it is this time as a lone star which has allowed her to develop into a more rounded and multi-skilled professional, capable of developing a small specialised service into a usable and proactive resource for its users.

Whilst ALIL for the most part ‘wants to be alone’ no librarylander is an island and as the years have passed she has developed a network of fellow librarylanders to lean on, pester, share and develop alongside.

However over the past year or two life at the coalface has become more crowded as ALIL finds herself with an opportunity to work with a variety of professionals and non-librarylanders to develop a small group of services operating under an affiliate umbrella.

What started as a bunch of disparate services huddling together for warmth has developed into a joined up, network efficient grouping with a remit and central funding!  In little over two years the group has been able to introduce joint access to electronic resources across eight HEIs, become a sub-committee of the umbrella organisation, secure central funding and inform policy.  The group has found itself able to affect major changes to its provision, by improving access to resources and saving money into the bargain… all without losing the autonomy of the individual services.

A lass in libraryland is well aware that by far the most rewarding aspect of this joined up thinking is that a group of lone wolfs have been able to find a voice loud enough to be heard simply by hunting as a pack when required… perhaps this corner of libraryland isn’t so lonesome after all.

The devil is in the detail

rssSometime ago a lass in libraryland found herself trawling the app store for interesting free toys to add to her iTouch and stumbled across Free RSS Reader. She downloaded the said app and added the feed URLs of a few libraryland Twits and hey presto instant feeds. The joy of not having to log onto a computer to check feeds was a real plus and saved ALIL lots of time.However the time it took to add new feeds caused ALIL much frustration – having to remember URLs and enter them into the app manually quickly became a chore…

Then as if by magic Apple released the OS 3.0 software update and all of a sudden the app was transformed from a useful tool to a ‘can’t do without’ necessity – a simple cut and paste and new feeds could be added in seconds.

Now ALIL is not only up-to-date with all the blogs she reads but can add new blogs in a trice.

If you haven’t already got the Free RSS Reader app or 3.0 update on your iTool of choice (which ALIL knows is highly unlikely, being an up-to-date streetwise, informed bunch) then ALIL would recommend immediate action to rectify this oversight…

On the move

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A Lass in Libraryland has been stepping outside her comfort zone this week and then some…

Having set up a blog a while back she had become more aware of other blogs, how they looked, how they were set out and their impact. Sometimes she found herself experiencing blog and domain name envy…

While ALIL wallows in all things 2.0 she could never be described as geekzilla and as a result she wouldn’t know CSS code from toffee and as for altering templates, forget it. So she found herself wondering how to get a domain name all of her own and how to get it to interact with her blog… whilst pondering the complications of altering templates and fiddling with style sheets.

The whole transferring from ‘blog.com’ to ‘blog.org’ to make the most of the added flexibility was a non-starter unless she could locate a good hosting service or a spare server knocking about the house… oh and some sadly lacking geekability.

A cast about located a possible alternative, a CMS that offered intuitive and flexible templates, which ALIL could learn to adapt as her competence levels grew. The platform would fully host the blog and allowed integration of domain names should ALIL desire. The slight downside – that the service, unlike ‘blog.com’, was not community driven (non-open source) – meant the development speed of the platform would be dictated by the providers, but this issue paled when ALIL had a play with the templates, widgets and setup options offered. To ensure she wasn’t missing anything ALIL also read reviews and dug for dirt… what she found amongst other things was positive feedback about support ticket response rates and some fantastic looking blogs.

In a total of two hours ALIL had signed up to her new CMS, set the templates and transferred her blog data from its previous home. Next she located an appropriate domain service and registered www.scarpagirl.com, created a new CNAME record in the DNS interface and pointed it at her new blog provider.

Although the ‘finished’ product doesn’t look very different from the old blog it should grow with ALIL, at a pace dictated by her and with a comforting level of provider support.

So give a lass in libraryland a neb at that ‘Basic CSS’ tome and put your damn toffee away.