Friday, 9 December 2011

Forgive me blogosphere, it’s been six months since my last post

To be honest, I wasn’t even going to bother today, then I noticed that I’d had 250+ views last night (from Russia?!). Thought I should give them something new to read should they return tonight.

Looking back, I was very clear that this blogging lark was primarily a selfish enterprise – I hoped blogging would encourage my reflective practice – and if anyone else found anything useful, then great, but it wasn’t my primary objective.

As time has gone on, I’ve had some really good conversations here, made connections with people that I wouldn’t have otherwise and been asked to do fun stuff off the back of what I’ve written here. And people do seem to have found at least some of my ramblings interesting/useful.  Which is nice. There has even been some reflection on my part :)

But the last six months have been very disappointing for me professionally. I don’t think there’s any need to go into the detail here, but suffice to say, I’ll be glad to see the back of 2011. There’s been very little to blog about, and when there has been something to write about I've not really been in the mood to do it.

But, I'm hoping for better things in the new year and look forward to get my blogging mojo back on! I can't be having a go at the lack of public sector blogging in Scotland if I’m not doing any myself.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Why information professionals should be at the heart of government digital engagement activities

This is my the proposal for Online Information 2011. I have to write approx. 5000 words on this by mid September - I will be looking for your help!

In 2004, commenting that people were increasingly confident to search out information themselves, Maewyn Cumming made a prediction about government information professionals:

"We will appear in more places than we do now. At the moment, librarians are cropping up everywhere, in weird and wonderful little corners, running or helping organize websites and intranets, even document and records management systems. We will be in places that don't initially always appear to be information management places. I know librarians who are working in enterprise architecture systems.” (Cummings, M. 2004, p16)

That librarians should support knowledge management across government was a key theme in the literature in subsequent years (Taylor and Corrall. 2007, p. 301). Attempts were made to place knowledge and information management at the heart of government. In the UK, the Knowledge Council was established as a cross-departmental body to raise the profile and give encouragement and direction to information and knowledge management initiatives. Information Matters: Building Government's Capability in Managing Knowledge and Information (HM Government, 2008), recognised that knowledge and information professionals are “experts who have key roles to play in contributing to the success of their organisations”.
However, this paper will argue that information professionals can play an even more central role at the very heart of government business.

Digital technology has revolutionised the way in which people communicate and share information  – the growth of social media over the last couple of years has been particularly spectacular. Good use of social media can help governments better understand, respond to and attract the attention of specific audiences. It enables real two-way communication with people in the places where they are already engaging with their interests. Social media can enable people to participate in proposing and shaping policies and laws, to provide feedback on programmes and services, and in some instances influence service design.

However, the ability of civil servants to use social media and the growing stakeholder demand for these channels is causing tension as government departments work to update pre-digital processes which do not work as effectively in the digital era. The pace of change is already rapid and is increasing in speed. This can cause further tensions, as many stakeholders’ contact with departments can be sporadic, making it difficult to know how and where best to engage with them. Engaging with stakeholders in their own spaces is creating a whole new set of learning opportunities for civil servants.

This paper will outline the roles involved in digital engagement within government, set out the skills required and explain why information professionals are ideally placed, not only to take on some of these roles, but also to assist in building digital engagement capacity more widely across government.
The author will draw on personal experience as an information professional who has worked in several ‘weird and wonderful little corners’ within government and is currently involved in the development of a digital engagement strategy for the Scottish Government.  


Learning Points

  • Overview of the current status of the information profession in government (UK and worldwide)
  • Digital engagement roles in government and the skills required
  • Insight into the contribution information professionals can make to digital engagement
  • Future opportunities for information professionals in government
PS. I have to come up with a title for this paper - by tomorrow. Any suggestions?

Friday, 24 June 2011

Save library websites

It’s all that Gillian Hanlon’s fault. There I was, minding my own business, doing a bit of this, bit of that, arranging the odd unconference now and again and having a rant about information literacy (or more likely the lack of it) every so often.

And then Gillian asks if I’d like to run a session on library websites at the 2011 CILIPS Conference (held in Glasgow in early June).

Now, I may possibly have given the impression that I know something about websites somewhere along the line. Indeed, I have worked on website development for a fair chunk of my professional career.  However...library websites were a bit of an unknown quantity for me. I’ve looked at the odd library website (some very odd) but I’d never really paid them much attention and I’ve certainly never been involved in the development of one.

But still, a good website is a good website – the principles apply whatever the service being offered. So I said yes, not a problem. And off I went to look at library websites.

Many days later I emerged blinking into the light, with what can only be described as a heavy heart and a bit of a sare heid. With very few exceptions the UK library websites (academic and public) I looked at were pretty dire.  Indeed, I had to go to North America to find good examples for the presentation (although they certainly have their fair share of pretty dire examples as well).

What I went looking for

The presentation contended that highly effective library websites are

1.       purposeful
2.       integrated
3.       user centred
4.       content rich
5.       inclusive
6.       findable
7.       flexible and responsive

Most of the UK library websites I looked at were none of these things.

Why ever not?

Possibly because:

  • The responsibility for the library website has been foisted on someone who’s not really interested/has too  many other things to do and can’t give it much priority/is interested but doesn’t have the knowledge or skills to do much with the site.
  • The corporate web team aren’t very interested/helpful (they’ll be dealing with competing requests from across the organisation and may be able to give the library pages much attention).
  • There may be little room for maneouvere. The library web pages on a council site for example will have to comply with the overall corporate look and feel, etc.

Or any combination of the above.

Why does it matter?

Well...the current #savelibraries and related campaigns are all well and good, but they seem to miss the importance of the online face of the library.  For an increasing number of people the website will the first element of a library service they engage with – for many, the website will be only element of the library website they engage with. 

People make their minds up very quickly about websites, and their view of a website will impact their view of the rest of the service.

And, whether we like it or not, the push towards online services is going to get ever more insistent.

So what can we do?

Well, we’ve been plotting, Gillian and I. Plotting what we might do to help improve public* library websites north of the border.  It’s not a secret plot, so I can share it with you. We are looking at

  • Setting up a group for folk interested in the development of library websites/online services. Possibly a CILIP Special Interest Group, but more likely something less formal...a LinkedIn Group maybe, or a Community of Practice.
  • Creating some guidance. Or perhaps a ‘good’ library website template?
  • Offering some training on website design, usability, etc.
  • In the longer term, perhaps getting the Public Library Quality Improvement Matrix (PLQIM) updated to cover online services specifically.

(NB. This touches on a related issue of the relevance of our professional skills in areas such as web development, user experience design, etc...but that’s for another post)

In the meantime

While we’re thinking all this through, we’re going to get better informed and work out exactly what we're dealing with.

  • Gillian’s going to look at getting some questions added to the Electronic Services Survey – so we can get a better idea of what is being used in the way of Content Management Systems, which libraries have some input into the design of their websites/which are constrained by organisational set up, etc. 
  • And I’m going to have a proper look at those websites I’ve been so critical of. I didn’t study any in great detail for the purposes of the presentation, and some got little more than a cursory scan. So, in a poor man’s Better Connected, I’m going to work up a set of criteria based on those ‘seven habits of highly successful library websites’ mentioned above and review Scottish public library websites against those criteria. I’ll share these for comment here when I’ve drafted something.

If anyone would like to help with any of this...that would be much appreciated. And get in touch if you're interested in any of the stuff mentioned above (training, guidance, etc).


* we’ll tackle academic library websites at a later (unspecified) date :)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Seven habits of highly effective library website

Update 8 June:  my presentation is now available on Slideshare.

Later today I'll be leading a session on ''effective' library websites at the Chartered Institute for Information Professionals Scotland (CILIPS) Annual Conference at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow (Twitter hashtag is #cilips11).

I'll blog about it properly in due course, but for the moment I've got a couple of lists set up in Diigo to accompany my presentation:

1. resources for website design/usability/writing for the web/etc
2. library website examples used in the session

PS. I never could get into using Delicious...but I really like Diigo.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Public sector blogging in Scotland

I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this you think that people blogging about their work is a GOOD THING. And possibly also that blogging AT WORK about more personal stuff is also a GOOD THING. If, however, you’re not convinced, have a read of this and this.  And if you’re still not convinced – why on earth are you reading this blog?!

I’ve been blogging about my work (with the occasional post about more personal stuff) for about four years now. I’m still not very good at it, but I think the fact that I’m doing it at all is a GOOD THING. For me, even if it’s not for anyone else. And for me other people blogging about their work in the public sector has been a VERY GOOD THING - I’ve learnt a hell of a lot from the blogs I read.

Because it’s a GOOD THING we need more folk doing it. There are some very good blogs with a public sector focus written in Scotland. Here are some that I’m aware of - in no particular order (and with apologies to any I’ve missed out):
But we can do better!  So I’ve being having a think about how we might get more public sector folk in Scotland blogging. (And I’m talking here about blogging outside the walled garden of the Communities of Practice space – lovely though that garden is.)

Blogger extraordinaire Mr Dave Briggs recently wrote a post about Public Sector Bloggers, which aggregates content from UK public sector blogs (very few are written this side of the border), and mentioned it’s growing unwieldiness (cos of the increase in blogs). Suggestions for the future development of the site include better categorisation and the addition of blogging guidance.

But...I’m wondering if a Public Sector Bloggers type resource specifically for Scotland/Scottish bloggers would be something worth developing?

What do you think?  Would existing Scottish public sector bloggers be keen to have their posts aggregated in this way?  Would it be a useful resource for encouraging people to blog?  Or could we just make more of the existing Public Sector Bloggers site?

I’d also be interested in suggestions for other ways to encourage more blogging in the public sector in Scotland.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Spikkin, speerin and a fly piece

Last Thursday I did a wee turn at the Scottish Knowledge Management Network (SKMN) meeting, which took place at the rather plush Subsea 7 offices in Westhill (Aberdeen).

I’d been at the ancestral pile in Aberdeenshire for the previous five days and had gone a bit native, so I called my slot ‘spikkin, speerin and a fly piece’. For the non-Doric speakers, that roughly translates to ‘talking, questioning and a cup of tea and a biscuit/cake/sandwich’ – which I thought summed up the day nicely.

When Mike McLean (Improvement Service) asked if I’d do a slot at the meeting, I asked him what he’d like me to talk about. An update on ScotGovCamp and something about my information literacy activities, he said. But rather than do separate presentations, I thought about common themes to link the two and then tried to tie them up nicely with a knowledge management bow…

…and basically what that boils down to is me and what I do on a daily basis…

...that being three things: communities, collaboration and conversation. I could talk about all three all day, but decided to concentrate on the third. The main point of my presentation summed up by David Weinberger in the Cluetrain Manifesto: “business is a conversation...and ‘knowledge workers’ are simply those people whose job consists of having interesting conversations”. My slides are available on Slideshare.

In the spirit of GovCamp, I wanted the session to be a conversation so I tried not to spend too much time talking before asking:
  • is conversation important within and between organisations important? 
  • do you have interesting conversations?
  • if not, why not? 
leading us into an interesting conversation about conversation ;-).

Find out more
The rest of the day

I’m not going to write in detail about the other presentations as that will be done better  elsewhere, but the main points I picked up were:
  • Let people learn and share their way not yours. [Dave Briggs]
  • A knowledge management strategy can make a corporate re-organisation less painful. And Sharepoint can be useful :-) [Annie Robertson]
  • Faced with the dual drivers of continuous improvement and financial stringency, we need more than ever to lead and manage the use of knowledge as an asset, to improve quality of care, create innovative solutions, and maximise use of existing resource. (NHS Education for Scotland and the Scottish Social Services Council are holding a series of Social Innovation events to “co-create” Knowledge Management Action Plans for Health and Social Services Organisations. Looking forward to hearing more about these.) [Annette Thain]
  • Jamie Kirk is going places (initially to North America in late May to study apps for government). [Jamie Kirk]
  • Before encouraging others to share we have to show willingness to share with each other. [David Friel]
  • The Knowledge Hub (KHub) is coming and will be fab. Join the KHub CoP if you want to find out more [Mike McLean]
Thanks are due to Subsea 7, and Annie Robertson in particular, for hosting the meeting and for admitting that sometimes the private sector can learn from the public sector :-).

Monday, 10 January 2011

What the IL have I been up to?

I’ve been really bad recently at keeping up with developments in information literacy. And to contributing to the information literacy community. The odd thing will pop up in Google Reader or my Twitter stream that I’ll skim over and highlight in the information literacy community of practice or tweet using the #infolit hashtag. But it’s intermittent and a bit half hearted.

So  I’m doing a bit of cramming now to get up to speed in advance of CILIPS ‘Information literacy: what’s it all about?’ event at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow on 20 January – at which Jenny Foreman and I are delivering a workshop.

If you’re not already signed up to attend, you should – not least because our workshop will be ace. There’s a great line up in addition to me and Jenny:
  • Christine Irving will be chairing
  • Debbi Boden (Director of Library Services at Glasgow Caledonian University and chair of  CILIP’s Information Literacy Group) will give an overview of information literacy
  •  Ian Watson and Michelle Drumm from IRISS will talk about their information literacy programme for the social services
  • Dr Audrey Sutton will present on information literacy in education
As to the workshop, I don’t want to give too much away yet...but it'll be based on the social media game – developed by David Wilcox – which you may have seen in action. It’ll be the first time we’ve tried it, but I think it’ll work. If it does, we’ll do a full write up and put all the materials in the community of practice. If it doesn’t, we’ll flee the country.

And in other news, there have been developments recently regarding a new home for the Scottish Information Literacy Framework. I hope to bring you more details shortly...