Thing 17 & 18: Wikis

Wikis are websites that can be easily edited by a large number of people, and can be as restrictive or open as the creator chooses.


17. Explore and contribute to a wiki

I wasn’t very familiar with wikis before this ‘thing’, apart from the font of “knowledge” that is Wikipedia. I had a look at the socialoxfordlibs wiki, but there didn’t seem to be a huge amount on it, but to be fair I didn’t add anything to it either. I guess that points to both a benefit and a flaw of wikis; you get out of it what you put into it.

I have actually contributed to a wiki before, though it was so easy I had completely forgotten I had done so! I added my own ‘library day in the life’ entry to this wiki (the blog post for which you can find here).

It involved signing up for an account with that particular site, but the actual editing of the page was really simple, and didn’t involve technical html code or anything. However, I was just adding my name and a link to a site, so perhaps more skill would be needed for creating more fancy pages.

An interesting experiment in using wikis is the omnictionary, which aims to create a mixture of reality, the fictional world of John Green’s novels, and the insider knowledge of the his online fan community.

18. Discover Wikipedia

I’ve used Wikipedia countless times. It’s a really useful tool to quickly look up a piece of information; though I’ve not been tempted to use it for proper research (my university really pushed the anti-plagiarism!). When researching topics at university, however, Wikipedia was extremely useful as I could get a basic understanding of a concept or an argument, written in layman’s terms.

I hadn’t explored the Discussion tabs on Wikipedia pages before, so it was quite interesting to read through some of the comments (and arguments!). I decided to explore a page I would know a lot about, so I chose the University of Exeter. I particularly enjoyed the contentious issue of the Christian Union in the discussion. It is interesting to see how the final edit has been reached to deal with an issue which many of us students felt angry about, in an unbiased way. On the history tab, I liked the option to compare selected revisions, so see what people have changed.

Wikipedia trivia: if you take any article, click on the first link in the article text not in parentheses or italics, and then repeat, you will eventually end up at “Philosophy”. I actually tried this a few times; it blew my mind.

Sci-fi, dirt, and sore feet.

From the BL shopA few weeks ago, I visited the British Library’s new science-fiction exhibition, Out of this World: Science Fiction, but not as you know it. I’m a nerd, so a sci-fi exhibition in a library was right up my street.

I’ve been to the British Library quite a lot lately, especially to their recent Evolving English exhibition, which was excellent. This exhibition was quite different, though still reasonably busy when I attended. The room was loosely divided into themes, or ‘worlds’, from science fiction, such as automatons or time travel, using books, posters and films from the BL’s collection. The exhibition also said a lot about the extent to which these things have actually come to pass, such as mobile phones in Star Trek, or Arthur C. Clarke’s design for satellites.

Within each display, the items were chronological, but I really enjoyed the much looser overall feel, with people flitting to things they recognised or enjoyed from childhood. I also enjoyed seeing much older collections on display, demonstrating that science fiction has been around since the 18th Century (think Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or H. G. Wells). The way the exhibition is organised also points out that, although science fiction is a defined genre, it is hugely varied.

I’d also planned on visiting the British Museum, so I stopped at the BL shop on the way out to buy a fridge magnet (I’m a sucker for gift shops), and headed out. On the way I encountered the Wellcome Collection, which­­­­­­­ “explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future”. I had heard of it vaguely, and since it was free I decided to go in. I particularly enjoyed their slogan; “­­a free destination for the incurably curious”. They were running an exhibition on Dirt: The filthy reality of everyday life, which was really interesting.


'A Monster Soup commonly called Thames Water', William Heath, 1828

The objects on display were a mixture of books, art, artefacts and film, and sought to show how our relationship with dirt, and its wide, culturally and historically varying definition. As a sociologist I loved this, but also as with my library hat on it really showed how museums, galleries, archives and libraries are all connected by common threads.

By the time I arrived at the British Museum, my feet were killing me and I hadn’t realised how huge the museum is, so I only saw a tiny part of it. Looking around the displays, I noticed that it is actually possible for members of the public to handle some of the collections. Under the supervision of museum volunteers, you can get up close and personal with some of the artefacts, which I can imagine is particularly fascinating for children.

I think you’d need days to cover everything in the British Museum, and by the end I was just walking through the exhibits quickly, just glancing at the odd thing that took my interest. However, I did spend some time in the Balkan Jewellery and Dress exhibition, which has some beautiful textiles.

I have to say there was one thing I wasn’t happy about with the British Museum, which was its early closing time. It shut at half-five, with staff (understandably) ushering me out of one exhibition some time before this. It’s a shame that the museum isn’t open more into the evening, considering it’s in the centre of London where people expect much longer opening times. I’ll just have to visit again!

New Professionals Information Day 2011

I attended my first CILIP event on Friday 3rd June, which was the New Professionals Information Day held in London. The event was advertised primarily by social media; I found out about it through Twitter. It meant a pretty early start (I left the house at 6.45am), but was worth it. Apologies, this post is a bit of an essay!

The event was introduced by Kathy Ennis and Lyndsay Rees-Jones, who also informed everyone of the ‘official hashtag’ for the event: #npid2011. Here you can see @CILIPinfo’s tweet archive from the day, containing 585 tweets. They also encouraged anyone who might be live-blogging throughout the day.

The first presentation was from the Keynote Speaker Steve Clarke (@UKSalesMentor). He lives by the mantra “it’s your attitude that determines your altitude”. Steve is part of a team of business mentors who work with business owners to improve their personal and business effectiveness.

He discussed how he discovered that you make the right decisions because of the right attitude, and with that you can pretty much do what you want to do. He also showed how his work in sales is relevant to the library and information profession, as sales is solving a problem. In this way, we’re all in sales, and we need to let people know what we have to offer; without clients, users, readers etc, there isn’t a need for our service.

He then gave us some rather tedious acronyms, but more interestingly some advice on what you can do to stand out from the crowd, including:

The next talk I attended was Getting Involved, led by Bethan Ruddock (@bethanar), involved in several formal and informal professional organisations.

Fundamentally, professional involvement is “engaging with the profession in any way that’s beyond the normal demands of your job”, which is important because when you develop yourself, you are developing the profession.

The first way people usually get involved is through professional organisations, for example CILIP. There are many reasons for getting professional involved, such as peer networks, which enable you to benchmark and share ideas. Another is for opportunities; it’s not what you know, but who you know, and Ned Potter’s blog post here explains this well. Others might be building skills by getting development out of the workplace, for example the cpd23 programme. It also helps employability, as it looks good on your CV, such as getting financial experience by joining committee as treasurer. In terms of how to get professionally involved, the best way is to say yes to any opportunities that arise.

We then had a workshop discussing three themes: involvement experience, boundaries and control, future of the profession. We also wrote on a post-it note the next step in our professional involvement, for example start a blog, or volunteer for committee.

Next, Lyndsay Rees-Jones then presented various ways of Getting Experience. This followed on very closely from the Getting Involved session. We began with her story and experience, and then divided into groups to discuss:

  • Why you might want experience? 
  • Where you might get it? 
  • How to use it?

The main themes that came out were increasing skills and knowledge base, getting a better job, social media and networks.

During lunch, CILIP had tweets featuring the Twitter hashtag displayed on a projection screen, which was very interesting to watch. This time was also a chance to network, though I’m never any good at that!

The next session was Getting a Job, presented by Alex Wilson-Campbell, an independent recruiter and CV writer specialising in jobs in the library and information profession. He gave us the main criteria to consider when job-seeking;

  • What should I consider when job seeking?
  • What exactly is the employer looking for?
  • How can I make my CV stand out, and make a good impression at interview?

Alex advised being aware of your strengths & weaknesses and your skills & qualities, and to think laterally when job hunting. His recruitment agency offers free CV checks and expert advice.

The final session was Getting International with Maria Cotera (@MariaCotera), in my opinion the best of the day and very inspiring. This was less a how-to, more a discussion of what we were interested in and what international experience we already had, and how that might impact on your career; for example, any member of CILIP is automatically a member of IFLA. We then heard from Maria about her work with the Women, information & Libraries Special Interest Group and the African Prisons Project.

After the presentations had finished, we reconvened for a Q&A Panel Session. It was a large group, so I think a lot of people weren’t too keen to ask questions. However, the group heard about different reasons for chartership and the speakers’ experiences of the day.

The day finished with LISNPN drinks in a pub round the corner. A few of the speakers came along too, and I was able to bend Maria’s ear about more of her work in Uganda, and another project she has worked on recently comparing criteria for qualification here and in New Zealand. It was also a great excuse to bother current and past Sheffield students!