Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Ten Tweasons To Tweet

This may surprise some people, but I wasn't an early adopter of Twitter. Like many folk, I didn't 'get it'. I remember having a conversation with a colleague a couple of years ago, he telling me how great Twitter was, and me just thinking 'eh?'

I can't remember what prompted me to sign up in the end. But I took to it pretty quickly. I'll admit, initially, I treated it as a bit of a numbers game - I remember getting quite absurdly excited when I got my 100th follower :-). I got past that though and Twitter is a genuinely useful work tool for me. As I recently commented to a colleague (on Yammer as it happens) it's probably where I get most of my information these days.

My job is partly about encouraging others to use social media, so it is important that I can articulate that usefulness. So here goes...10 reasons why Twitter helps me do my job, and (hopefully) do it well. (NB. this is very much a personal perspective - why I tweet – my reasons may not resonate with everyone.)

1. I get information from Twitter faster than I get it anywhere else. Not so very long ago, I found out that the Scottish Government publications contract had changed (a couple of days before this information appeared on our Intranet). It's not a replacement for other sources of information, but complements the current awareness tools I use - RSS feeds, journal alerts etc. I follow people who have similar roles/interests and I know that they'll tweet stuff which is relevant to me.

2. Having said that, I follow a wide range of people in an attempt to keep my perspective from becoming too narrow! Twitter is a great way of getting exposure to a range of views and opinions.

3. Twitter allows me to vary my level of awareness of issues. I'm interested in lots of things, but to different degrees. Twitter allows me to maintain a general awareness of what's going on in lots of different areas, but also facilitates routes into those issues that I need to have a deeper understanding of.

4. It's a great professional development tool. My CPD framework requires me to have an understanding of all aspects of librarianship, and to keep up to date with developments in the field. I follow librarians and information professionals from all over the world. Even what may seem the most mundane comment (someone griping about a Library Management System for example) can provide a useful insight into their role. As I no longer work in a traditional library role, I find this really valuable.

5. I could leave it at that – using Twitter as just another information source. But I'd be missing out on the most powerful aspect of Twitter the ability to engage with fellow tweeters. I've had conversations with people I would never have 'met' otherwise. I’ve chatted to Pat Kane, Ian Rankin and Sarah Brown in recent weeks...but enough name dropping...I don’t follow many celebs on Twitter - they're often not very interesting :-).

6. So, Twitter lets me punch above my weight. I work in a very bureaucratic and hierarchical organisation (is there a more bureaucratic and hierarchical organisation?!) and I’m pretty near the bottom of the food chain. I spend a lot of time at work being frustrated at my inability to bring about any change – or even to have a conversation with someone who can. There’s no hierarchy on Twitter – just lots of people who want to get things done.

7. And I like sharing information. I'm a librarian. I can't help it! I'll tweet links that I know will be of interest to the folk who follow me. If I'm working on something that may be relevant to my followers, I'll tweet about that – and get instant feedback on it. I may also post on Yammer, on LinkedIn, or on the relevant Communities of Practice, depending on what the information is and who I think it’d be of interest to. But it'll get the greatest exposure on Twitter and what I do is of interest beyond my organisation.

8. I've written before about the limits of traditional conferences and Twitter is a great way of following events. I can't go to every conference I'd like to (in fact, attendance at any external event is increasingly difficult). By keeping an eye on the relevant hashtags, it's possible to follow several events all happening at the same time without leaving my chair. (NB It's always interesting to see how similar the issues being discussed at these events are - even if outwardly the focus is very different.) Sometimes it's possible to actively participate in an event via Twitter - asking the panel a question, for example.

9. I can react instantly to content. For example, I don't have as much time to comment on blog posts as I'd like. If someone posts a link to their latest blog post, I can send them a quick comment via Twitter – and maybe spark off a conversation.

10. I'm not very good at old skool networking. I find it really difficult approaching people at events. In addition to the fairly obvious networking potential of Twitter, it's also great for getting to 'know' people before you meet them in person. Having a laugh about someone’s avatar (usually mine!) is a great ice breaker

So that’s my ten. Any other good reasons to tweet? Or, reasons not to?

Monday, 14 June 2010

The Second ScotGovCamp Blog Post

David beat me to it on the ScotGovCamp blogging front, but I hope there will be lots of ScotGovCamp blog posts in the coming months...

What's a GovCamp then?
GovCamps are self organised unconferences for people that work in and around government. The GovCamp movement was started by Jeremy Gould in January 2008 and there have been a number of central and local government focused events in England. 

  • are free
  • have no set, pre-defined agenda
  • focus on attendee participation
  • integrate with online stuff
  • are relentlessly positive, constructive and creative 
Generally, the GovCamp movement enables those who are interested in developing innovation and technology in government to come together in an informal setting to share their ideas. 

If you're still not sure, check these out: 
But why a ScotGovCamp?

ScotGovCamp is partly about me :-)  I've blogged before about not finding that I get much from traditional conferences these days and the un-conference format appeals to me. I can't really justify a trip down south to attend one, so I got to thinking that organising my own event would be the only way I'd get to join the fun.

But it's not all about me :-)  We're probably a wee bit behind our neighbours when it comes to digital engagement. And for being such a wee country we don't seem to be as good at sharing our stories. Where we're probably a bit further ahead though is the way central and local government works together, and in partnership working more generally - we just don't talk about it enough!

So I mooted the idea of a GovCamp for Scotland in various places at the start of the year, and there were enough expressions of interest to warrant taking things forward. 

Where's it happening?

I've attended some brilliant events at the Informatics Forum in Edinburgh - it really is a brilliant, inspiring space. It's pretty central as well - with lots of nice pubs nearby for the partaking of post camp sherberts... 

The folk who work there are also rather brilliant - I hope some of them will be able to participate. 

When's it happening?

Don't worry, it doesn't conflict with the World Cup, T in the Park or the Festivals. And it's a Saturday, so you won't have to miss any work. 

Who should attend?
Govcamp isn't just for gov or techie types.  If you have any interest at all in any aspect of digital engagement in Scotland then you should seriously consider coming along.

There will be lots of gov and techie types there though, so it'll be great way to make connections.

What's on the agenda?

Nothing as yet (see above), but here are some of the topics that might come up (I've pinched most of these from LocalGovCamp Yorkshire and Humber which happened this weekend just gone): 
  • Social media and efficiencies
  • Our digital future – what does it look like?
  • Digital inclusion/exclusion
  • Libraries and social media
  • Online content strategy for local/central government
  • Connecting, public culture and cuts – how the social web can help cultural institutions connect with the public
  • Stuff you can do with Flickr
  • Enterprise 2.0 – deploying social technologies within our organisations to improve communications
  • Open data – what steps do we need to get us sharing our data?
  • Free and good enough technologies – the next stage of digital services development?
  • Smart cities and the internet of things
  • Social Media Surgeries – is anyone holding these in Scotland (or something similar)?
  • Engaging less able people by the use of virtual walks/events in their area or field of interest
  • Front-line social media: engagement, consultation and learning
  • Does the growth in social and geo-sensative gaming have any implications for government?
  • Innovative responses to emergencies 
  • Do we need a Scottish version of data.gov.uk? 
How do I sign up?
Sign up (it's free!) at http://scotgovcamp.eventbrite.com/

Can I help out?
Yes please!  There's still a fair bit of organising to do. 

Get in touch via
Hope to see you there!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

On reflection

It seems an appropriate time to be reflecting. It's annual performance appraisal time and also almost a year since I started in my current post. It's also a year since 5 days study leave saw me hours away from having a completed CILIP chartership portfolio!

I've also attended a couple of events recently that have moved on my thinking in this area. 

The first, was organised by my colleague Paul, along with the Housing Studies Unit at the University of Stirling. The half day (and a bit) reflective practice taster session was targeted primarily at regenation practitioners, but the content was fairly generic and applicable to anyone who wants be more reflective.

(the photo is from the room at the Stirling Highland Hotel where the event took place)

We kicked off by fondling a lemon :-) and talking about our thoughts as we did so. An interesting exercise designed to help us understand the way we make associations. Unfortunately, being in the later stages of a cold that had hung around for 4 weeks I couldn't smell the lemon which meant I wasn't able to engage all my senses!

We then looked at a simplified version of Kolb's learning cycle - essentially: what? so what? now what? - and how to apply that to our reflective practice.

That was followed by a discussion about the barriers to reflective practice, including the reality that it's not the way we've been educated to write. And in my case that's something that has been amplified by being in the civil service for so long!

We'd been given some homework to prepare for the event - writing a diary style entry examining something that recently happened in our professional life. As mentioned in previous blog posts ad finitum I've been trying to be reflective in my practice for sometime now, so I cheated a wee bit and took along a blog post I had already written. We worked in pairs to rate each others homework (along with some sample pieces) on the following scale:

1. Description
2. Description with reflection
3. Stepping back and mulling it over
4. Critical reflection

My partner and I agreed that I'm probably at level 2, so I've a bit to go yet.

The key personal learning point for me was the confirmation that even when I think I've been reflective, I've only really been scratching the surface. I thought that once I'd made a conscious effort to be reflective that it would just happen - that it would be a fairly natural organic development of my writing style.

So I'm going to give structured reflection a go. After each event I attend I'll make a point of asking myself some specific questions under the headings of what, so what and now what (we were given a skeleton/template at the event, but I'm going to draft my own version, which I'll share when it's done).
The event also prompted some discussion about how we (the Scottish Centre for Regeneration) can help our learning network members become more reflective in their practice. Should we, for example, build in some time in our events for reflection? Watch this space for further thoughts...

The second event, was a workshop run at LILAC by Merinda Kaye Hensley on critical reflection for teaching librarians (but again, the content was fairly generic).

Over the course of a couple of hours we had the chance to develop a personal teaching narrative and to gain an understanding of how to support a community of practice in the classroom through guided peer observation.

Two key learning points for me. Merinda has come up with 25 critical reflection prompts which I can incorporate into my structured reflection framework. And secondly, that when I learn something from a workshop/lecture/training session I should give some thought to how that learning happened. 

OK, having looked back at this post, I think I've just about covered the what?, so what? and now what? Perhaps not up to level 4 yet, but it's progress!

Sunday, 4 April 2010

My last LILAC?

[edited to correct error of attribution]

I’ve been thinking about how best to blog LILAC 2010 (my third LILAC). I’d normally just write something up about all the sessions I’d attended – whether they were particularly useful to me or not. Not this year. In line with the whole getting down with reflection tip I’m on at the moment, I’m going to do a bit of a round up and then blog thematically about the stuff that actually made some impact on me.

So this is the round up and I’ll start with the positive stuff. As usual the conference was really well organised. The venue was great, the programme was packed and the presenters were all knowledgeable and obviously passionate about information literacy (IL). In particular there were a couple of really good sessions on reflective practice that have moved on my thinking in that area.

And it was heartening that the Scottish Information Literacy Project is still getting plaudits (as it has for the last couple of years), in particular for our emphasis on partnership working and success in bringing together librarians from all sectors, and gosh, sometimes, even non librarians! The national framework developed by the project has proved to be an inspiration to a number of other countries.

Wales is a good example. In December 2009, an event, organised by WHELF (Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum) and funded by CyMAL considered the development of a cross-sectoral information literacy framework (for a report, see Karl Drinkwater's post on the RSC Wales blog). An action plan was agreed - including a draft statement and formulation of a steering group. And CyMAL are now providing funding for an information literacy development officer. So perhaps Wales will end up with an IL framework that has statutory authority – something we’ve not been able to achieve in Scotland.

The Irish are also following our lead. Phillip Cohen from the Library Association of Ireland’s Working Group on Information Literacy admitted to stalking anyone connected with the project (including ourselves!) at the conference.
However…I think this will probably be my last LILAC. For a start, I don’t ‘do’ information literacy as my day job anymore. I’m still very passionate about it – which is why I’m more than happy to help facilitate our IL Community of Practice – but it would be difficult to justify my attendance at a conference that has such a narrow focus.

To be honest, I’m not sure I’d want to attend next year anyway. It was great to see that in this – the first LILAC held outside of the UK the delegate list was very international. But, it was disappointing, yet again, that the vast majority of attendees where academic librarians (HE predominantly). There were a few more workplace and school librarians than in previous years, but public librarians were very hard to find. 

Tony Durcan, Head of Culture, Libraries and Lifelong Learning, Newcastle City Council, keynote speaker on day one, talked about the key role public libraries can play in the digital inclusion agenda – and to me, this is where information literacy can have the greatest impact. Yet we had, maybe, one public librarian at the conference?

An even bigger issue for me though, is that every LILAC we talk about how IL isn’t just for libraries/librarians. Yet that’s what LILAC is – librarians talking to other librarians. Perhaps we need to change what the ‘L’ stands for in LILAC and find ways to encourage more non-librarians to attend. 

And from a personal learning perspective, I’m not sure I get much from attending traditional conferences these days. I had a great time at LILAC, but I’m not convinced I learnt anything I wouldn’t have gleaned from following the conference tweets, blog posts, etc. And I can make connections just as easily online as I can at a conference. (It doesn’t help that I really dislike travelling these days!)

This is very much a personal view and I’d like to emphasise it is no way a criticism of the conference organisers – who do an absolutely fantastic job. We all have a responsibility to venture outside our comfort zone sometimes and have conversations with the 'unconverted'. But I do wonder how sustainable the conference is in it’s current format? 

Further posts to follow. In the meantime, if you want to find out more about LILAC 2010, try these links:

Andy Walsh’s live blogging: http://library.hud.ac.uk/blogs/il/?cat=28 
Elini Zazani’s Delicious bookmarks: http://delicious.com/Lilac2010

Sunday, 24 January 2010

My Life as a Librarian Part II - The London Years

Part I - in case you missed it

So, there I am, innocent newly qualified librarian all alone in the big smoke. (OK, maybe not quite innocent, but still a bit of a country hick. To illustrate the point, I thought Luton was a good place to commute to London from. Well, it's looks quite close on a map)...

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was very clued up about the skills that a qualified librarian could bring to a range of posts - including 'non traditional' roles like records management and web management - and carried out a general librarian recruitment exercise every year. Successful applicants were then allocated to the most relevant role dependant on their particular skills/experience.

I was lucky enough to be allocated to the web team at UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) - an agency of the DTI and the Foreign Office. I probably didn't see a book in my entire time there, but got to put my librarian super powers to use helping to manage and develop UKTI's website - which was pretty groundbreaking at the time for combining external website/extranet/intranet in the one site with more or less completely devolved content management.

Over the next two years I worked with a great bunch of people, gained experience in a range of web management activities (user testing, stakeholder management, user support, etc) and even managed to (reluctantly!) pick up some coding skills. The highlight of the job for me though was the training activity. Being involved in a massive programme to train colleagues all over the world in the use of our Content Management System and to 'write for the web', meant developing my trainer skills, but also visits to lots of exotic places, specifically for me: Cairo, Muscat, Madrid, Oslo, Johannasburg, Beijing, Shanghai and...Leeds.

But all good things must come to an end...the endless international travel was becoming a bit tiresome anyway, honest! So after two years I prepared to go back to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in Newcastle - unsure of the job I'd be doing, as my old post had long since gone!

But with the fortuitous timing that seems to have been a feature of my career, I spotted a job in the Scottish Government (SG) library and I went for it. I really liked living in Newcastle and hadn't intended a move back north of the border at this stage, but it was too good an opportunity to pass up. So I got the job and spent the next two and bit years as an assistant librarian with the SG in Edinburgh.

A rather more 'traditional' role this one - literature searching, information enquiries, current awareness, I even stamped a book or two. The opportunity to develop and deliver training - this time in information literacy skills - was again the best bit of the job for me.

(There's a whole other blog post to be written about the current state of government library services and their future, but I may not be the best person to write it!)

I really enjoyed this job, wasn't looking for anything else and hardly ever bothered to look at the vacancy page on our intranet. But one day I did and spotted a job for a Knowledge Management Officer - at a grade up from the job I had.

So here I am. Back in a non-traditional role doing knowledge management, digital communications and community management to name but three aspects of my job. But I draw on experiences from all my previous jobs in this role. I mostly think of myself as a librarian. Some days I have something of a split personality. I was a civil servant before I was a librarian - and the two mindsets can be contradictory (something I've blogged about recently).

As for how I got here, well it's obvious that I've had no career plan to speak of - I think it's mostly been a case of taking opportunities when they have presented themselves. I'm quite happy with how things have turned out. If I could do things differently, I'd be more focussed about CILIP chartership and I'd have found some way of completing my Masters dissertation...but I may still do that...

Saturday, 23 January 2010

How I got to where I am today! Part 1

Bit late, but herewith follows the first of two posts which together constitute my contribution to the Library Routes Project. The project was set up in October last year 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...

Does one 'chose' to become a librarian? Are we not born? I think it just takes some of us longer to realise that that's what we are...

Anyway...librarianship wasn't a career I considered at school...and it wasn't ever suggested to me by my careers advisor. In those days it wasn't quite as important to have a specific career in mind when choosing a degree (generally any old degree guaranteed you a decent job). So my decision to study History at Aberdeen University was really down to it having been my favourite subject at school. During my time at uni I had vague notions of having a go at teaching and archaeology appealed at one point, but librarianship didn't register with me at all. When it came to my final year I applied - with little enthusiasm - for a range of graduate recruitment programmes. Unsurprisingly I didn't get past the first interview with any of them.

So I left university with a pretty good MA(Hons) in History and Economic History and no job to go to. I remember considering an Information and Library Studies (ILS) post grad at this point (but I don't remember why!), and also thought getting into IT might be good move, but I was fed up being skint and didn't think I could face any more studying. So I did some short courses in word processing, desk top publishing and the like (including a typing course, which turned out to be one of the most useful courses I've ever done! No one fingered typing for me!) and applied for any job I thought I might have a hope of getting. To boost my CV, I also did some volunteering at the Citizens Advice Bureau - where, incidentally, I developed skills that I've used in every job I've had since.

Four months after leaving university I got a short term contract with what was then the Scottish Office Agricultural and Fisheries Department as an administrative assistant. It was pretty mind numbing stuff but from there I got a permanent position at the Department of Social Security (now the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)) in Aberdeen. Over the next couple of years I had various roles from filing to interviewing benefit claimants.

At first it was great having money...I bought a flat, did some travelling and generally had fun...and I worked with a really great bunch of people. But after three years I felt increasingly in need of something more challenging and thought it was time I worked out what I actually wanted to do with my life.

I can't remember what made me consider librarianship again at this point, but I found myself applying for the first intake of the Robert Gordon University's (RGU) new distance learning post grad diploma in Information and Library Studies. (Bit bizarre doing a distance learning course at a uni located 20 minutes up the road, but I wouldn't have been able to fulfil the weekly attendance required to do the course part-time.)

I was the only one in the cohort who didn't already have a library job, so to get some practical experience I took on a part-time job in RGU's library.

By this time I'd moved into an IT support role at work - which proved to be another opportunity to acquire knowledge and learn skills that would stand me in good stead in later roles. I also ended up having to do a lot of overtime, and looking back now I'm not sure how I managed to fit everything in - full time job with long hours, part time job and part time degree. I certainly wouldn't have the energy to do it now!

I was about two thirds of the way through the post grad course when I applied for, and got, a promotion. A promotion which entailed a move south of the border. I took a break from the studying while all the moving stuff was going on, but because it was delivered by distance learning I was ultimately able to complete the course - and only two years after I should have done!

At this point, I fully intended going for the Masters and put together a really good research proposal looking at information literacy in the workplace. But then I saw an advert for assistant librarian posts at what was then the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI). So on to my first professional post and a move even further south (to London).

So, the scene is set. Tune in next week to find out how I got on as a new librarian in the big smoke!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

CPDo or CPDon't

2010 is the year for me to finally get serious about my continuing professional development (CPD). In particular, get some extra letters* to put after my name by becoming a chartered member of my professional organisation, the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals (CILIP).

I'm a very good example of how not to 'do' chartership.

I took the first step of registering way back in 2005, full of enthusiasm in my first job as a qualified librarian. Five years later, I have still to submit my portfolio. It's not an immensely difficult task and I was almost there last April. I took some study leave and after a solid week's slog (see my blog posts from that week for slog confirmation) I'd selected the evidence I needed for my portfolio and just had the evaluative statement to write. Then I ran out of study leave. I've not done anything since.

I had a resurgence of enthusiasm towards the end of last year when CILIP announced its eportfolio pilot...with the added incentive of waiving the submission fee if you could submit before the end of December. The thought of getting hard copies of my evidence (a lot of it is in electronic format only) and getting it bound was filling me with terror. The opportunity to put the portfolio together electronically was not one to be missed. So I signed up. And did nothing.

I've been reflecting on the reason for all this doing nothing ness. And the conclusion I've come to is a pretty simple one. It's nothing more than a lack of motivation. I've written recently about how busy I am. And I am very busy. And I feel like I've been very busy for the past 5 years. But, I could have made the time. If I'd been motivated enough.

Those letters would be nice to have (I know my gran would be very pleased), but I don't need them to do my job. I won't get any more money if I charter. I'm unlikely to be looking for another job in the near future. And as I'm now in a non-traditional librarian role, it's not always easy to justify CPD activities of a librarian flavour to my management.

But that's what's now providing my motivation. The very fact that I'm no longer doing 'traditional' librarian works makes my CPD all the more important. The 'traditional' librarian skills are very relevant to my current role. And my future as an information professional rests on my ability to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Which is where the CPD comes in. It's not about the letters, it's about the process involved in getting those letters.

So, yesterday, I attended a CILIP portfolio building seminar and got myself back on track :-)


Friday, 8 January 2010

To stream or not to stream

You'll have noticed the little experiment with the auto feeding of my tweets to this blog. It was really a spot of laziness on my part as I've not had much time for blogging recently and thought it was better to have something appearing here regularly...just to keep the interest of my reader :-)

I've noticed a few bloggers recently shifting to 'life streaming' It appeals from a personal perspective - would be good to have all my online activity recorded in one place. But...I don't particularly want to read other folks streams...but....I have said before that this blog is all about me! What to do? I have a feeling that if I did shift to a life streaming approach it would make me even lazier than I am now...and I wouldn't do enough of the deeper thinking that writing a proper blog post requires.

And on that subject - just to prove that I have done some thinking recently - I recently contributed to an interesting discussion on Dave Brigg's blog on 'the state of the UK gov blogosphere'. The whole discussion is well worth a read as there are perspectives offered from several gov bloggers, but here are my own thoughts on why civil servants don't blog as much as maybe they should:

Blogging is a good thing, yes, no argument there. And I think we're actually getting to stage where we're getting a good community of government bloggers.

As to reasons why civil servants don't blog…From a personal perpective my own blogging is limited by:

- Yep, a lack of time. My blogging is done in my own time and I'm struggling to do any at the moment because I'm having to do so much of the 'day' job at home as well.

- And yes, also, a lack of things to write about. Not a lack of things I'd LIKE to write about – but a lack of things I CAN write about.

More generally, most civil servants I know are yet to be convinced by Web 2.0 in any shape or form (many still don't see the relevance of the web at all!). Digital engagement more generally requires a dramatic shift in the way civil servants conduct their working lives and change can be difficult for us!

It's also a personal thing though. The reflective nature of blogging doesn't come naturally to everyone. And for civil servants, it's not how we're taught to write! I'm a professionally qualified librarian and for my CPD am expected to be a reflective practitioner. I started blogging as a way of of facilitating that – but I have found it difficult. And reflection isn't always something that is valued by managers.

I'm sure confidence is also an issue. I'm under no illusions that anyone actually reads my blog (other than a couple of my colleagues and my boyfriend :-) ), but as I blog for primarily selfish reasons, my miserable Google Analytics stats don't upset me (too) much. The blogosphere can be harsh. Anyone starting up a new blog would need a very thick skin or they could get disheartened pretty quickly.