Information Communication – Oxford Library TeachMeet

I attended the Oxford Library TeachMeet on Tuesday 12th July, with the theme Information Communication. TeachMeets are informal events where professionals can share and network in a more relaxed than a conference, and anyone with an interest in how information is shared was welcome.

The event was held at the University Club, and I was very impressed with the inexpensive bar! Speakers were encouraged to interpret the theme as widely as they wished, and this meant there was a fascinating variety of presentations through the evening.

The first presentation was from Ollie Bridle and Isabel McMann on the use of QR codes in the Radcliffe Science Library, to help readers navigate the library and access online guides. QR codes are free to generate, and work in a similar way to a barcode. they can be scanned by a smartphone, with the relevant free software, which then takes you to whatever that QR code is linked to. I think it sounds like a great idea, and it was clear the RSL staff are pretty excited about it. I do think it could be an option for the SSL in the future.

Next up, Matthew Baker gave us a close up look at research communication using Colwiz, a new type of reference management software, but with a social networking edge. Colwiz is a collaborative site on which you can store references, create bibliographies, and share information with your network. It has interesting features including a public profile, calendar, pdf reader, and groups, with the ability to comment, tag and share. The site looked very impressive, and to be honest I’m surprised other reference management sites haven’t done this before!

Alison Prince, Web Manager for the Bodleian libraries, gave an interesting presentation on Making Online Exhibitions. She showed how the key to successful online exhibitions is planning, and demonstrated each step using Shelley’s Ghost as a case study. Her objective for the online exhibition of Shelley’s Ghost was to create a website reflecting the physical exhibition, but exploiting the richer, more interactive nature of the online world. Alison stressed the importance of remembering it’s all about the user; they should have user-centred design, and always should be user tested before going live. In terms of design, Alison made the site identifiable with the physical exhibition, but with interactive media, such as podcasts, slide shows and video introductions.

Following this, Liz Gallagher gave a two-minute nanopresentation on the recent #AskArchivists Day. 150 institutions took part, including the Bodleian, as well as the Smithsonian and the National Archive. The day saw 21 questions asked, and a 3% increase in the Bodleian’s followers.

Dan Q, Bodleian Libraries Web Developer, then gave an amusing and very fast-paced two-minute presentation on why your password sucks. He showed us how to create unhackable password, by creating a cryptic, unique master password, then adding individual suffixes for each other password you need.

Hilary Murray, Graduate Trainee at Corpus Christi Library, gave us a sneak peek of her trainee project presentation; redesigning the library’s WebLearn pages. She ran through her research, why it was needed, and how it would benefit the library and its readers.

The final presentation was from CJ Crennel, who works at the History of Science Museum Library in Wroughton. After an initial hiccup with the projector, her presentation covered ways in which the library is trying to improve audience perception and access. She also gave an overview of their Trade Literature Collection, and ways in which the library and archive have been promoting the collection as a research tool.

This was my first TeachMeet, and I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect; the blog informed me it was an ‘unconference’. It was a relaxed, informal meet where we were encouraged to network, but there wasn’t a pressure to (which is a little how I felt with the CILIP New Professionals Information Day). It was also my first real experience of live-tweeting; I kept getting too wrapped up in the presentations and forgetting to tweet!

For more information, you can follow the event on Twitter (@OxLibTM) or search Twitter for the hashtag #OxLibTm.

One last thing…

23. Summarise your thoughts on the 23 Things @ Oxford programme

I started the 23 Things programme back in February, and  I am quite pleased with how it has gone. The web tools I have experienced as part of the programme are: 

  • iGoogle

    Word cloud from

  • Blogging
  • RSS feeds & readers
  • FlickR & Picnik
  • Delicious
  • Podcasting & Youtube
  • Facebook & LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Wikis
  • Google Documents & ThinkFree Office
  • Widgets

I think the most useful of these, and the ones I am likely to keep using in the future, are blogging, Twitter, Google Docs, and perhaps the iGoogle page.

I think a blog is a great way to keep track of what you’ve been up to, and to be reflective about it too. Blogging about these Things has helped me get the confidence to start blogging properly; if I feel I don’t have anything interesting to say, I can fall back on doing the next Thing on the list! (Perhaps I’ll start doing 23cpd just to carry this safety net on!)

The same can be said of Twitter, really. I used it before, but not nearly to the extent I do now. As for Google Docs, I can see it being very handy indeed for group work during my MA.

It has been interesting to compare my thoughts and views of the web tools with the other trainees, and to read back over the past participant’s blogs too. I think at the start I was expecting to know everything straight away about the tools, but I actually learned a lot of new useful information about them. I’m glad I took part, as even if I don’t use all of them that often, at least I have a ground knowledge of them, and will recognise when they might just be the perfect thing to use.

Thing 21 & 22: Widgets

Widgets are very similar to what we used to personalise iGoogle. I already had a few added to my blog, but for this Thing I have experimented with others.

Thing 21: FlickR

I added this widget, and it was really easy to do. I just had to drag a box into my list of existing widgets, and add my FlickR photo stream URL. However, it looked pretty bad – I’ve only got test photos from when I set up the account, so I didn’t keep it.

Thing 22. Delicious bookmarks on your iGoogle page

I haven’t used my iGoogle page in ages, so I didn’t really do this one. Instead I added my Twitter messages to my blog, and a picture of myself.

The widgets make a blog look more personal, especially with things like photos and Twitter streams. I think that’s important if you want people to keep reading your blog. It’s also a good way to link it to other parts of your online presence, such as Twitter, so people realise it’s you.

Thing 19 & 20: Office 2.0

Office 2.0 refers to internet-based Document applications. These are internet-based, so can be accessed on any computer online; they are part of the ‘cloud’

Thing 19: Create a Google Document

I have heard a few people refer to Google Docs, and it seems like a brilliant idea for group work or ongoing drafts. I tried out a couple of the document types, and they were very easy to use.

I signed in with my Google account, which appears to be a very useful thing to have. I think every ‘Thing’, except maybe Youtube, has been accessable through this account. It’s a shame I signed up with my Oxford email address, so I’ll be updating my account before it expires so I can keep all my accounts.

Some of the people I know who use Google Docs are Library School students, and they find it useful when they are contributing to group work. Not only are these documents available to you online, it is possible to share them with others, and they can also contribute. It does make a lot more sense than emailing work back and forth, and you know it is always the most up to date version.

I have used sites online before to store documents, but never to store and create/update. I think I will definately be using this tool when I start my studies.

Thing 20: ThinkFree Office

ThinkFree Office  looked a lot more like Microsoft Office, but took a bit longer to set up. Only slightly though, which involved installing it through Java. The site was a bit more swish than Google Docs, but they essentially do the same thing.
The look of this site would probably appeal more to some people if they are more familiar with Office, but personally I preferred Google Docs, for simplicity as I imagine I would be using it for drafts or taking notes in seminars at university.

The readers’ research

The inaugural 2011 Sssh: Social Science Showcase for graduate research took place in the Bodleian Social Science on Tuesday 28th June. Opened by Professor Roger Goodman, Head of the Social Sciences Division, 19 research students from 8 Departments displayed posters about their current research.

I have been involved in the organisation and running of this event for the last four months or so along with the other members of the Sssh team. I must admit this event has been the source of some stress, as the initial planning came along at a time where Lauren and I were struggling to keep up with our workload. Luckily this became less and less of a problem as time went on, and I really enjoyed being part of the project.

The first meetings were a bit of a struggle. It was decided that the posters advertising the registration website would be accompanied by two sets of postcards; one was to give more information, the other was a reply card you could fill out with an email address and have more information sent to you. A few of us thought this idea wasn’t necessary, and I feel we were right in our dislike of the reply cards as we only had one response! The colour scheme was also pretty off in my opinion, with the poster and cards in a shade of lilac which didn’t seem eye-catching, but I am told the advertising was a success so I was clearly wrong.

In these meetings we were all assigned tasks, and Lauren and I were asked to create a guide to creating an effective research poster, of which we are both pretty proud (sadly it’s no longer on the web).

Initial sign ups were slow, but reasonably steady, though when the participants were asked for a 150 abstract closer to the event date we had quite a lot of cancellations. This was a big problem, as were feeling quite low on numbers to begin with, and the display boards had already been ordered (at quite a cost to hire). We were even getting cancellations the day before the event!  This was even more frustrating because a brochure of the titles and abstracts had been compiled for the participants and attendees. In the end the event was a reasonable size, with around 19 participants on the day, which was actually better than a large group since it was manageable but also not too small. Seeing the posters really made everything worth it.

One of the key aims of this event was to bring together research from across the Social Sciences Division, and this was a great success; posters on topics such as young people’s museum learning experiences were displayed alongside “A conceptual analysis of social resilience of single older women living in rural Australia”. Other poster titles included ‘The Social Life of Schizophrenia’, ‘Early Iron Age Aegean Warfare’, ‘Tapping Ink, Tattooing Identities: Tradition and Modernity’ and ‘Dynamics of Bodily Changes and Self in Older Women’. This setup gave researchers a unique opportunity to discuss their work with members of other departments and to gain an awareness of the diversity of current research within the division. Therefore, although named Sssh: Social Science Showcase, a play on the library setting, this lively discussion meant that the day was anything but quiet!

Opening the showcase, Professor Roger Goodman, Head of the Social Sciences Division, gave a short speech to welcome participants and to highlight the crucial relationship between the library and the research it supports, which was put into practice at this event. He also stressed the importance of the skill required in creating an effective research poster, and urged everyone to take the opportunity to ask as many difficult questions as possible.

For us this was a great chance to learn more about the research being undertaken by our readers; as many of them are regulars in the library it was really interesting to see the end result of all their hard work. Similarly it was also great to see so many of the participants taking the opportunity to learn more about the research of their contemporaries and engaging in interdisciplinary debate.

I was mistaken for a student a couple of times, and some of the presenters’ faces did fall when they found out I was just library staff, but I hope I conveyed my enthusiasm for the topics and the social sciences, and that they all found the event worthwhile and enjoyable. The day was well received, and was an excellent end to four months of preparation. The library is hoping to repeat the event in 2012.

(Thanks to Lauren, as I pinched parts of this post from the article we wrote for the Bodleian newsletter!)