Monday, 8 October 2007

Waiting for the next hit

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Or, how I learned to stop worrying and embrace the fact that I'm an info-floozy

Fiona Bradley posting at Libraries Interact has a good post about cutting down on information overload, which brought in mind to me the draft post I've had sitting on my desktop for, oh, the last few months.

See, I have a problem with information overload. A real bad, no good, terrible problem. Now, I'll happily be the first one to admit it. I love information - thrive off it - and the wonderful glut of information on the available in these heady days of web 2.0 is a godsend to me. I'll happily lap up all of that wonderful zeitgeist coming at me through the interwebs at the moment. But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't taking it's toll. And I know that it's taking it's toll on a lot of you too.

But what to do about it?

Google Reader tells me that, as of this moment, I'm subscribed to 540 blogs. Now, I know what you're thinking (I can hear the horrified gasps from here). And it is, I know. I struggle with trying to keep up with them, and manage somewhere between not too badly, and appallingly, depending on how much time I have on my hands. Now, I don't read all of them everyday (I couldn't possibly), and a lot of them update irregularly, or are dead (it's such a hassle weeding out things like that, and I really can't be bothered - it's not a problem having them there if they don't update and don't get in my way). And I do read in a lot of different subject areas - my main folders cover libraries (2 folders of those), cooking (more than I care to mention), comics, web stuff, geekery, tech, law, KM, productivity, career stuff, music, shopping, people, job hunting, and a temp folder for things that I think I want to delete, but haven't quite summoned up the courage to actually delete yet. And I know this is too much. Everyday I look at it and pale at the sight of so many unread items. It's a daunting prospect.

But then again, so is the idea of deleting them. As I said, I'm a sucker for information, and this is feeding my habit. I know I don't really need to know all of these things, but oh! they're so good to know! I get to read about beautiful new things, exciting new projects, risque politics, shiny new games, and lots of yummy things to make, lots of music to listen to, and... I don't want to be without them. I love being on the crest of the wave. I love knowing what will be coming out soon, what the new trends are, what the new tools and startups are. And I love hearing what people are saying about them - what everyone of the individual people in my reading list is saying.

And yet, I do need to cut back. And I have.

There are a lot of ways to cope with information overload like this - Fiona points out a few goods tips in her post, mostly relying on the idea of cutting shamelessly and ruthlessly and not stopping until you have the number of feeds you're subscribed to down to a manageable number. Which is all well and good, and definitely a good start, but I have a few points to add:

  • Think about how you read your blogs - I don't mind being subbed into a large number of cooking blogs and webcomics, cause essentially they're just a greatbig scroll of pretty pictures. These blogs bring me joy and give me a way of relaxing. Reading blogs doesn't just have to be about work and information - it can be about getting small bits of happy sent straight to your feedreader

  • Think about when you read - using the same example, as much as I love my sprawling mass of pretty pictures, it's not mission critical if I don't read them, or ifI only look at them a few times a week. And as long as you don't feel compelled to read things that you don't have time to read, then it's not really a problem

  • Think about what you'd lose if you unsubscribe - This is a bit of a two-edged sword - think about what you'll be losing both in the good and bad context. One good post a month probably isn't worth ten bad ones, but at the same time, if someone is only posting once a month, but it's an amazing post, it's probably a keeper

  • Don't think you have to unsubscribe to get it under control. If nothing else, I use my reader as an ersatz bookmarking service (as much as I love, things get lost there and are never seen again). Rather than unsubscribing straight away, I move subscriptions to my interim folder, and graze through it every now and then, to see what's in there. I wouldn't have subscribed to them in the first place if they weren't interesting enough to keep an eye on, but you don't have to be looking at them every day.

  • And, as a last ditch, but awfully effective method, just stop reading. Just don't do it. Don't open your reader. When you do, don't be afraid to mark whole folders'as read' before you even take a peek. Have a folder for the most vitally important, must read, top ten or twenty feeds in your list, and only look at those. (This is my strategy at the moment - I just don't have the time to be reading as much as I used to, and as such, I only read a tiny percentage of what I'm subbed to)

It's very easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information available and think that you can't escape from the mire of interesting and terribly important things that need reading. It is possible to get it under control though. Does anyone else have any tried and tested methods for keeping their subscriptions under control?

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Mob Rules

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I've just had a fantastic article brought to my attention, courtesy of Ben at 200ok.  It was the closing keynote at the Web Directions South conference that was on in Sydney last week.

Mark Pesce gave a session titled Mob Rules (The Law of Fives).   It speaks of networks, and how the mob uses them, and how networks change because of the mob.  It speaks of change, the destruction of hierachies and the future of networks.

It's written with a focus towards web developers, but there is so much that can be taken from it and applied to libraries. Especially when he speaks of the mob making things that they want happen.

Mark points out the five rules of the mob.  Rule two: The mob is faster, smarter and stronger than you are really stuck out to me.   He's talking of web sites but swap web site for library, and see where it takes you.
You can’t push a mob any more than you can push a rope; you can pull them, lure them, and, if you’re very lucky, dazzle them for a moment or two, but then, inevitably, they’ll move along. That’s bad news for anyone building web sites. The world of mob rules isn’t about sites; it’s about services, things that the street uses and permutes indefinitely. The idea of web sites dates from a time before the network ate hierarchy; sites are places where you go and follow the rules laid down by some information architect. Well, there’s no way to enforce those rules. The first Google Maps mashup didn’t come from Google. Or the second. Or the third. Or the hundredth. Google resisted the mashup. Claimed mashups violated their terms of use. Mashups come from the mob, the street finding its own use for things. The mob pushed on through; Google bowed down and obeyed. The most powerful institution of the Internet era, pushed around like a child’s toy. Ponder that.

It's definitely something to ponder.  Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 is a starting point. We're starting to think in terms of services.  This is the next step forward - moving toward an attitude that is no longer focused on how we want users to use us, but focused on providing the services that the mob wants, how they want it.  Otherwise they'll move on and find a way to get what they want without us.

Information ALLA Carte: Part the First

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As promised here is the first of a series of posts about my recent sojourn in Sydney attending the Information ALLA Carte conference. I'm going to write 3 parts, one for each day of the conference.

Wednesday was filled with preconference events. I attended at lunch held by publishers Justis, at an amazing bar right on Darling Harbour. I went on a tour of the library at the Australian Securities and Investments Comission (ASIC). The tour was only 1 of 8 that I could have attended but I decided on just the one and chose the one that was least like what I was familiar with. From there I went to the welcome drinks and got to catch up with a few familiar faces, as well as getting to know a lot of new people.

This first social day was good as it meant that I got to meet a lot of people in a social setting and didn't feel so lost when I got to the actual conference. It also meant I had people to sit with, which is always an important consideration!

Monday, 1 October 2007

Three things for a monday

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Firstly, a thankyouthankyouthankyou to whoever nominated us as one of their favourite library blogs in Meredith Farkas' favourite blogs survey! We are thrilled and delighted to have been mentioned – there may even have been some surreptitious squealing :)

Secondly, apologies are in order for our paltry posting regime of late – I have no decent excuse, begging lack of time and an overabundance of trainees, but happily Davina has returned from her jaunt to the Australian Law Librarians Conference in Sydney, and will soon be posting tales of her adventures there and of the interesting things she saw and heard from the librarians back home.

Thirdly, and most importantly, Jessamyn alerted us to the fact that it's Banned Book Week this week! So go out and read yourselves a book that someone, somewhere has considered to dangerous to read. Davina will be reading And Tango Makes Three (a heartwarming tale of gay penguin love) and I'll be rereading my favourite bits of Ulysses, with which I was tortured at university, but have since grown to love. Go, read, enjoy, challenge :)

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Graduating: or, how I got inspired about my career

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As of today, I am officially a graduate of the Masters of Information Management degree at Queensland University of Technology.

It feels a little anti-climactic though as the ceremony was in Brisbane, and seeing I'm here in London I couldn't attend. And I'd even forgotten it was happening until one of my coworkers reminded me! I handed the last piece of assessment in in July, so I've felt finished for a couple of months now.

The last semester of study was one of the best I've done. It was that semester that got me inspired about my choice of career and made me want to get involved. It was part of the impetus for starting this blog and for getting more involved in the professional associations that exist in London. Even though I was studying externally I still felt like I was a part of something bigger and that I needed to give back to that.

The first steps of my career have been taken and I think they're heading in the right direction.

Thursday, 13 September 2007


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I started using Google Reader recently, mostly to see what everyone was talking about, but also because Bloglines had started to become too annoying to use.  And I think I'm converted.  What I'm really loving is the Star feature as it means I don't have to leave all the good posts marked as unread and I can see everything in the same place.

There's been a lot of fantastic posts lately which are in my Starred items folder that I really want to share.

To start with is a post by Scott Vine over at Information Overlord that I think needs to be read by CEO's and managing partners everywhere. It's called Wasting Time - Facebook and other Fallacies.  Scott highlights some pretty relevant stuff about wasting time that all these so called 'studies' on Facebook seem to ignore.

Kathryn Greenhill at Librarians Matter wrote a good post on power in Library 2.0 called What’s new about Library 2.0? Shift in power.  She raises a good point about the 2.0 movement about the whole '2.0 is about being user-centred'.  She then goes on to outline where she feels the power has shifted.
So, if being user centred is not new, and Library 2.0 isn’t only about new tools, what is new about it? Why should we lift our heads from the stuff we are already doing and take notice of it? To me, the new element that Library 2.0 brings to our libraries is a shift in power balance - between us, our users, suppliers, software vendors, non-users.

On the topic of 2.0, The Other Librarian wrote a fantastic post titled Under the Hood of Web 2.0 : the top ten programming concepts for librarians to understand. Definitely a useful post to read if you're into the whole web 2.0 thing and want to know more about how it's all actually working.

There's been a lot of talk about the OEDB list of top 25 library bloggers. I definitely agree with the comments many made that their methodology needs a little bit of work. However, as a response, Meredith Farkas has started a survey - the Top Three Library-Related Blogs Survey. The survey is open until September 29 so head on over and fill out your three favourite library blogs.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

New ways of seeing

So. We've been planning this for a while, but it's taken a while to get sorted. We have decided to relaunch the site - pack up our things and move to wordpress, our own shiny new domain and out of the mire of pseudonymous blogging, and start writing as ourselves at the all new and improved Enquiring Minds Want to Know.

Please feel free to peruse our new about us page that will give you some insight into the crazy minds behind this whole shindig.

It would be wonderful if you could all click on the link below to resubscribe to the new feed, or go here to check it out first, and tell us what you think of the redesign. There is also, should you be so inclined, a new link to subscribe by email, if you're into that kind of thing (check out the sidebar).

We will be running both blogs simultaneously for a while to give everyone a chance to move over - however, the feed on this one will be littered with notices reminding you to change your subscription or update your bookmarks, so it might be best just to do it straight away and save yourself the hassle :)

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

No flip flops in the office: or, why business casual just don't work in a law firm

Recently Librarian in Black had an interesting post regarding honesty and blogging about work. She came to the conclusion that there was no happy medium - honest blogging is both career suicide and honest sharing at the same time. And I rather agree with her.

This isn't an issue we talk about a lot, but it has been coming up more and more recently. There has been some critique of the bibiloblogosphere, saying that we're not critical enough, and that we don't deal enough with contentious issues. There isn't enough dissent and there isn't enough discussion of what actually goes on in the workplace. And I think that this is an interesting issue to address.

I can't help but think that this is (or should be) more of an issue with library blogs - we are, inherently blogging about work (you may be a librarian by vocation, but it is still ultimately a job), but everyone is still too scared to talk about the specifics of what we do. There is, as LiB said, too much of a fear of reprisal. It is, however, this fear of reprisal (and the reprisal itself) that I find disappointing and strange.

We're not, by and large, a cantankerous or troll-y bunch. I can count the kerfuffles I've seen in the bibiloblogosphere nearly on one hand, nothing like the average of most internet communities (and even when there are slight dramas, they are very rarely on the scale of internet warfare seen elsewhere). We're not likely to say things that are massively detrimental to the workplaces in which we work, or the people whom we work with. At worst, I expect we may be slightly snarky, and there may be a slight workplace politics hiccup following a potentially 'difficult' post, if there were any at all. And, essentially, we are librarians blogging for other librarians. Where we work within institutions, our non-library colleagues are very unlikely to see what we have written, even if we are well known within the library-blogging fold. And our library colleagues and peers are likely to be sympathetic to the workplace troubles and frustrations that we all share.

But, sadly, our workplaces tend to be unsupportive of this honesty and sharing. It is uncomfortable, and unfamiliar, and they don't know what to do with it. They may approve of, or at least accept, blogging as an academic medium, in which we can wax lyrical about the state of the information profession, and where the industry may be heading, or as a forum for letting more interested people find out about interesting new tools and services. But they are uncomfortable with what I think of as business casual - the ability to be professional, and take your work seriously, whilst still being a separate person, with ideas and opinions that may not always align with what is best for the company. I see my role in this blog as a business casual role - this is something I do for myself; I love the reading, writing, and conversations that I get to participate in from being part of it, and I would be (and was) blogging in some other capacity if I didn't have this blog. But this is also a professional venture - this is a way of meeting other professionals in my field, expanding on my knowledge of the sector, improving my skills, and, ultimately, being better at my job, and any future jobs I will hold.

It is this business casual idea that makes me understand why in other professions it doesn't put you at a disadvantage to have a blog. In industries where it's ok to wear business casual to work, it's probably ok to be writing business casual as well - think advertising, design, consultancy, and other types of web work and bleeding-edge millenium industries.

And this is where I think the frustration lies. We are web-workers - we are sharing in the zeitgeist of new technology. We know what the most engaged minds of our generation are thinking and doing. We are using the tools that they are using, and sharing the thoughts that they are thinking. We engage in the same communities, and participate in the same practices. But we are not them. They work from without, while we work from within. They work in industries where free-thinking and opinions and open-ness are valued, whilst we still, by and large, work within large dinosaurs of organisations, unable to keep up with the changes, even when they would like to.

I can't help but think that it's somewhat unreasonable to expect bloggers to never hold, or at least express, a negative opinion about their workplace, but would indeed, if I were employer, rather than employee, relish and appreciate the honesty and personality of my employees being able to express such an opinion. But, at the same time, I know that it's hard for our lumbering dinosaurs of organisations to keep up with the nimble leaps and jumps that modern webworkers make.

And I don't know what the answer to this is. If we challenge the system we will get knocked back (note: my shocking absence on Twitter and Facebook during the working day at the moment). But if we don't challenge the system we won't change anything. Personally, I believe in pushing the rules as far as they will let me go and to hell with the consquences! What do you think?

Saturday, 1 September 2007

UK library blogs - why all the tumbleweeds?

Last week Fiona Bradley asked what I thought was a very pertinent question on Twitter - where are all the blogging UK librarians?

Since moving from Australia in 2006, I have seen the Australian library blogger population flourish, with many exciting bloggers and events. There has been the West Australia Lib 2.0 Unconference, Information Online 2007, and New Librarian 2006.

There is the upcoming State Library of Queensland Unconference, Australian Blogging Conference, Information Online 2009, VALA 2008 and IFLA 2010 has been announced for Brisbane (all of which I would love to be able to attend! why did I move to the UK again?)

There are wonderful blogs such as the aforementioned Blisspix, Kathryn Greenhill, Exploded Library and Connecting Librarian, amongst others.

(I focus on Australia, because obviously the US contingent has been kicking it hardcore for a very long while *g*)

But here in the UK, there is not so much...

There are the few of us legal library bloggers (all, you know, six or seven of us). And there's Phil Bradley and Karen Blakeman. And quite a few universities and public libraries have institutional blogs. And whilst institutional blogs are both great and very important, they're not quite the same as personal library blogs. They cover different issues and are not, generally, so much a place for discussion and community.

Where is the discussion, the barcamps, the unconferences, the passion? There's Internet Librarian 2007, but quite frankly, the program is just not that exciting, dealing with a lot of issues that are a bit, well, 2005 (e-learning, portals and wikis at work, virtual libraries - these are not new and challenging concepts). I envy all of you Australian and US bloggers, with your exciting conferences to attend and projects to get involved in. It just doesn't seem to have caught on here yet, and I'm not sure why. Are we too caught up in tradition and the old ways of doing things? Too resistant to change? Too scared to make a fuss or get into trouble for blogging our opinions? I'm not sure...

Or maybe I'm wrong, maybe there are lots of UK library blogs and events going on that I just can't seem to find. Some secret underground community of subversive UK librarians, maybe? (and if there are, please let me know!)

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Podcasts from Sweet & Maxwell

I was on the Sweet & Maxwell website today and noticed that they now have a podcast section. They have a number available on topics such as Employment Law, IP Law and Family Law.

I'm not a podcast person, and I don't know if any of my lawyers are, but they look like useful things to link to on the intranet in case there is anyone interested.

What I'd really like to know is how many hits they're getting on them? Are there actually lawyers using them?

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Biblioblogosphere Survey 2007

Meredith Farkas has put up some preliminary results of her Biblioblogosphere Survey, and there's some interesting stuff there.

The figures for the percentage of bloggers being academic v public are interesting as it makes me wonder what the other 37% do.

2. Back in 2005, only 19% of bloggers were public librarians while 44% were academic librarians. In 2007, that gap is closing. Now, 33.6% of all library bloggers work in academic libraries and 29.3% are public librarians.

Also, this quote made me smile:

6. Want to be happy? Well, you may want to become a school librarian, work in a law library or work for a consortium or library system, because those three got the highest scores for job satisfaction.

I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the final results of the survey!

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Blog action day!

We're going to be participating in Blog Action Day on October the 15th - a day comitted to a global effort discussing environmental issues. There are currently over 3000 blogs committed to post for it, reaching an audience of over 3 million, which I think is pretty spiffing.

We don't touch much on the environmental impact of libraries and how we operate - this is a good time to reflect on the impact we make on the world around us.

Watch out for the posts come October 15!

Information ALLA Carte

In September I will be attending my first conference. I've been given the opportunity to go the Australian Law Librarian Association conference in Sydney. I'm incredibly excited, and looking forward to both the sessions on offer, and the networking opportunities. And of course seeing Sydney. I was only 13 the last time I was there, so I'm looking forward to looking at it with new eyes.

The sessions being offered all look good, though I'm especially looking forward to the sessions on training. They'll come a bit late for this years batch of new trainees, but hopefully I can pick up some tips for the next batch. There's also some good sessions on intranets and marketing.

Personally, there's also a session being given by the course convenor of my Masters degree about legal research courses at universities. As I was a student in one of her classes on legal research I'm really looking forward to seeing what she has to say.

I am going to look into obtaining a laptop to take with me, so hopefully I can liveblog, and be on twitter whilst I'm there. And I will of course be posting reviews here.

Friday, 10 August 2007

The Economist Audio Edition

I received an email today from The Economist informing me of a new service they have - the Economist Audio Edition. I'm not a podcast person, I tend to tune out when I'm listening, but I can see this being a good way to keep up with the magazine, especially at the moment when the postal strikes mean that it often comes three or four days late.

You can download the audio of the entire issue, or section by section. At the moment though the only way to subscribe to it is via an email alert, but it's definitely a step in the right direction!

Information Overload - your librarian can help!

I opened up this weeks Legal Week yesterday afternoon, and upon flicking through I found an article titled 'Information Overload'. Upon reading it, I couldn't believe that there was no mention anywhere about the library or information centre!

The first paragraph:

Information overload is a problem for all of us: too many emails, too much data, too many magazine articles to read. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is a major challenge. And if lawyers are to focus on the right information, a lot of the sorting has to be done for them. How can firms approach this challenge?
could easily be answered by getting your library/information department involved. That's what we're here to do!

I wouldn't want the article to be all about the library, but a small mention would be nice.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Some thoughts on productivity

I have something to admit. It's not a big secret, but it's not something I'm terribly proud of. I'm a procrastinator. Through and through. Give me a task that needs to be done today, and I'll think of some way to put it off til the last possible minute. If it needs doing by tomorrow, then chances are I won't do it today. And worse than that, I have no attention span either. Something has to be hugely engaging to keep my attention, otherwise I'll be wanting to do something else, be given new, different stimulus.

Now, this has always been a problem for me, and it's something that's only gotten worse over the last few years. I've always found the internet distracting (in the most glorious and wonderful of ways) and the slew of information available now sends me into such a tizzy of over-stimulation and attention deficit that I scarecely know where to look.

I want to fix this. I really do. It annoys me ever so much that I can scarcely focus on a task without wanting to quickly check my email or my rss feeds or twitter or a news site or whatever or whatever (the list of things that I can find distracting is near endless). But it's hard. There's so much out there to be distracted by, and I'm an information seeker by nature - I want to know all the new things that are happening in the world. But I need to be able to keep it in check, particularly when I have work to be doing. And sometimes it's hard to find the willpower on my own.

In an attempt to deal with this, I've just started using the Leechblock extension for Firefox at work.

Now, I'm not meant to use Firefox at work, but I really do find it far easier to be productive with Firefox. There are so many extensions that make my browsing life easier and more productive, that being without them just makes my day far more frustrating than it needs to be. And tabbed browsing is a blessing when you're looking at lots of articles and cases at once. (Actually, there was a whole good post in the Wall Street Journal last month about tips for getting around backwards IT policies to make your work day just a bit easier, but it wasn't me that sent you if your IT department comes knocking).

But anyway. Leechblock is fabulous - you can give it a list of sites that you don't want to be able to access (I go with the basic timewasters - Facebook, Bloglines, Flickr, stats sites), and give it exceptions for one's that you do, and a list of times, and that's it! You won't be going there. You can even turn off the ability to access the edit screen during the times you've set, to remove that extra piece of temptation. There is also the option to set up multiple profiles, so you could have different settings for different situations.

This is a bit of a hardline approach (I have no willpower, I know!), and does rely on me pretending that IE isn't on my desktop (but that's ok, I don't want to use IE anyway), but it does seem to help in putting a bit of a barrier between me and my procrastination.

Does anyone else have any good tricks for keeping the internet timewasters at bay when you have work to get done? I can't be the only one fighting off the lure of the internets :)

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Professions don't stand still.

Michael Stephens over at Tame the Web has posted a fantastic post titled 'Professions Do Not Stand Still'. I particularly liked the first paragraph he quoted from Blog About Libraries:

Have you ever met a plumber who doesn't work with PVC? An electrician who only uses knob and tube wiring? A firefighter who thinks those new fangled breathing masks are just too complicated? No, professionals who don't keep up with the technologies that affect their work go out of business. Librarianship is not immune to that.
That is such a true statement. In a law library, it's not as pressing an issue, but as times goes on, there are going to be expectations that the services provided by the library are current and making the best use of the technologies available. Technology is not the be all and end all of the profession, but it's important that we know how and why to use it.

David Lee King has been making a number of posts on just that topic lately, starting with his 'Am I a 2.0 Librarian and the Library 2.0 Spectrum' post. After focusing on the technology aspects of Library 2.0 in that post, he followed up with a post 'Library 2.0 - Is it Techie Or Not?' about how important technology is to the provision of a library 2.0 service. And really, library 2.0 isn't about the technology - it's about taking the technology that's there, and providing a fantastic service for your users. And ultimately, that means keeping up with what's available. It's a continuous process. Technology is constantly changing, and so too will the services that we can provide.

There will always be the early adopters, those who are constantly picking up new technology. And within the library sector, or even the legal library sector, it's important that the ones on the edge are sharing their knowledge with others. As a knowledge sharing profession, we need to all be involved in keeping each other up to date. That's what I love so much about the 'biblioblogosphere' - we're all out there, sharing, discussing and learning from each other. It's an amazing thing to be a part of.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Opinion matters - ours and theirs

Following on from my earlier post about image and perception, I've been thinking a lot about how we perceive ourselves in the profession, and how others perceive us from outside it.

But first, an anecdote. Last week I went to the dentist and it set me to thinking. I have a good dentist, professional and skilled, and snarky, in the way that the best dentists seemed to be. And he was oh so very cranky at me for not looking after my teeth as well as he thought I should - amazed and annoyed that I wouldn't spend the time to floss three times a day. And it occurred to me that, being so embedded in his profession, so caught up in what he does everyday, that he had forgotten what it was like to be on the other side. It wouldn't occur to him that his patients might value their time differently, and not want to dedicate a half hour a day to their teeth, or that they might not know the best and most effective ways of brushing and flossing. As a professional in his field, dealing with these issues every day, they are of the utmost importance to him, and he couldn't imagine anyone else feeling otherwise.

I can't help but think that in the library profession, particularly within law firms, that we tend to be blinkered in the same way. Dealing with our work everyday, we can't help but value it very highly. And we should value it - we're providing a professional service to the users in our firms. But I just don't think our users value it as much as we do. And not just in the general, 'oh those silly lawyers, they don't know half the work we do for them' kind of way, but in a more tangible way, I don't think that our work is as immediately important as we would like to think it is. So much of what we provide, particularly in the way of raw data, needs to be filtered and refined in some way - usually by an overworked PSL or trainee - into something more relevant for the fee-earners. Whilst we have the skills to find the information, and provide somewhat of a refined product, we generally don't have the skills to interpret it, nor the place within fee-earning departments to have the knowledge of exactly what is needed and when. What we provide is important, yes, but it's often a raw product, and not the end in itself.

I think that much of our frustrations within firms stems from this - it's not that the lawyers don't value what we do for them, but that they often don't know what we do for them. Our research and work feeds into many aspects of the firms information flows, but the source of this information is rarely acknowledged. Our information arrives in their inboxes or on their desks seamlessly or silently, and they, understandably, don't really know the work that went into getting it there. And most lawyers, unless they have had a lot of experience with a good librarian, won't know what we can offer and what skills we have. They will hold faint memories of librarians from their university days, or maybe from their days as a trainee, not knowing that we can give them much more. They don't know, and they wouldn't even think to ask - it's just not within their sphere of interest. They feel that they need to know the details of what we do as much as they need to know exactly what their finance or IT or HR departments do.

Buried in our work, and knowing it's value so completely ourselves, we complain that people don't value us, but don't spend a lot of time thinking about why that might be. We need to step into the minds of our users and think about how they gain their perception of the library. What do we do for them that they can see? That they can't see? Where does the information that we provide flow throughout the organisation? What can we do to make our presence more visible and more valued? What can we do to educate people in the services that we provide? When do we need to step back and realise that what we're providing isn't as important or valued as we think? And what are we going to do about it?

How do you all feel about this? Do you think that we are placing an unrealistic expectation on our users to value us? Or do you think that your firm or organisation values your service as much as you would like?

Monday, 30 July 2007

Biblioblogosphere survey

Meridith Farkas of Information Wants To Be Free, and Social Software in Libraries, is conducting another survey of the biblioblogosphere (the results from the 2005 survey are here), which you can participate in here. I think the results will give interesting insight into the biblioblogosphere and the way that it has been changing and growing. It'll be nice to have a bit more of a presence from UK and legal library bloggers as well - I think we've grown a lot in the last year, and it would be good to see how much.

Go forth and participate!

Saturday, 28 July 2007

My Telegraph: the RSS gateway drug

The Telegraph has a service (is it new? I'm not sure. I haven't noticed it before, and it still seems a little unfinished, so I'm thinking it can't be that old), where you can subscribe to a limited selection of news articles. They have created a few broad categories (sport, news, opinion, business, and so on) and have selected a number of resources that you can feed into an RSS stream. And, somewhat shockingly, they aren't just recommended Telegraph columns, but things from all over the internet, including columns from their competitors (they offer feeds from the Times and the Guardian).

Now it is very limited (you can't add in any other feeds, but can only select from what they have made available). And it is a little clunky (it's all ajax, which I don't really like as a functional platform - it's too prone to slowness). But I quite like it nonetheless.

It feels to me like the gateway drug of RSS - not quite as hardcore as setting yourself up with feeds and a feedreader, but you can have a small selection of things to read. It's the sort of thing you might suggest to your not-terribly-net-savvy parents, or to someone with limited English. You would move on from there to a real RSS reader - probably GoogleReader, as the format is somewhat similar. It's enough to get you hooked on the crack that is RSS, but not so daunting as having to go out and actually track feeds down yourself. And I really like the fact that they're not limiting themselves to Telegraph resources, but are expanding their options to other sources. I think it's worth checking out.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

A break and changes to come

On the 10th, Hypatia and I are off to brave the wilds of southern France. It's a well earned and needed break and we're both looking forward to it immensely.

When we come back, we've got a few plans that we want to put into action, including a new look and feel, and moving over to our own domain name. And of course, lots more posts!

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Intranets and ideal worlds

I was asked the question today - in an ideal world, what would you put on an intranet. So I sat down and had a brainstorming session.

Straight off the top of my head the first things that came to mind were blogs. They're quick and easy to use, and are the perfect tool for getting updates out quickly. Plus you then have an archive of the updates. Currently, if you miss an update in the 'What's New' section, that's it, you can't see it again.

Other things were things were no brainers like having a separate page for individual practice areas or departments, and topic pages that bring together a wide variety of material on a single topic.

Something I'd really like to implement is the use of wikis. Initially, this would be a trainee specific one. It would be nice if trainees could contribute to a wiki on their current seat as a way of creating a knowledge repository that can then be used by the next trainee in the seat.

And in my idea world, the intranet would function a bit like a portal and a bit like Pageflakes. I don't actually use pageflakes currently but I do like the concept and see how you could transfer the concept to a firms intranet. Being able to specify what you want to see when you open the intranet ensures that you're getting the most relevant information straight away and I think that could really appeal to lawyers.

There are so many other things I thought of, just sitting thinking for 10 minutes. And they're all technologically possible, the problem is getting the ideas to become reality. But in my ideal world, all these things would be standard.

In an ideal world, what would YOU put on your intranet?

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Fluther, and the collective knowledge of crowds

Fluther and are two new startups that are attempting to tap into the collective wisdom of crowds, asking the user base of the site to answer questions posed to the group.

Fluther is quite cute (it's squid themed - how can you not like it?) and nicely designed (though I would rather the 'ask a question' box wasn't quite so prominent, as it means I can barely see the questions posed on the front page). The questions asked here seem mostly serious - the sort of things you would ask, as the website puts it, if you had 'five Uncle Franks to answer your car questions, eight Aunt Marthas to ask about astronomy and six Grandma Gerties to advise you on your garden dilemmas'. I would argue that this shares a lot of the same mental space as MetaFilter - most of the questions are things that you would see posed there, which arguably begs the question of why you wouldn't just post to metafilter, with a much larger userbase? (as seen at Here we are. What now?) is a slightly different take on a question and answer site, requiring that questions be phrased as yes/no in an attempt to generate discussion. I can see this one being a little more popular, though a lot less useful. It's very compelling to click on the little ajax-y buttons to answer questions, but far too much effort to click through and actually comment on something. I do wish the ratio of responses was shown on the front page though - I want to be able to see how the votes are swinging at a glance without having to click through. The questions on here are mostly vapid ('Are you sitting in a swivel chair now?') and I admit that I don't really see the point - I can't help but think that it's another site that's attempting to be a social hub, when people are pretty much social-site-d out at the moment.

I do, however, think it's interesting that there are so many places on the internet where people go to get their questions answered. It seems like the sort of service that public libraries would want to be providing - indeed I'm sure there are one's around that do, I admit that my knowlege of the progressive services that public libraries offer is limited. I think it'd be great though - a site where library users can pose a question to the librarians and users of their local library and have it answered in this sort of way - combining the resources of the library with the wisdom of the crowd, and creating a community feeling at the same time. Does anything like that exist at the moment, or am I being a bit optimistic?

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Image and perception (or, why we shouldn't apologise for our profession)

I swear I'll get around to writing a post about the BIALL conference (no, really, I promise!), but other things have cropped up, and have led me in other directions. And one of the issues that I've been thinking about a lot lately, particularly on the back of the conference, has been that of the public perception of librarians.

Now I know that everyone likes to talk about this a lot, with the 'oh, but no one understands us and everyone thinks we're just glasses-wearing, shushing, school-marms in tweed'. Which, arguably, is still the public perception to an extent. (Oh the joys of telling people that you're enrolling to do your masters in librarianship! The rolled eyes! the confused glances! the requests for private shushing sessions in the stacks! Laugh a minute, I can tell you) But there's another issue in this whole image malarky that really irks me. And that's that only public librarians exist. In the public eye there is only one way to be a librarian, and that is in a public library. Well, maybe university librarians at a pinch, but only the one's that sit on the reference desk, not any of the ones that work behind the scenes. And public librarians, well, I don't think they represent the profession as a whole. They do a good and valuable and important job, and one that I wouldn't do for love nor money, but they only represent one facet of a profession that has so many different aspects.

I'm curious to watch Hollywood Librarian when it gets a more general release, but I am kinda disappointed that (as far as I can tell) the only side of the industry that's being represented are public librarians. Which is not to say that public librarians aren't important, nor that it's not a good place to start changing public perceptions (where better to start than with what people already know). But just that it's a bit frustrating to realise that it'll be a long time coming before there's any sort of public recognition of the work that the many kinds of special librarians do. Corporate librarians and medical librarians and one person librarians and legal librarians and all of those myriad information professional jobs that don't come with the word 'librarian' tacked onto the end. I can't help but think that it's terribly important to not just modernise our image, but to broaden it (I didn't even know that special librarians of any kind existed until I started my masters). How are we meant to meet changing needs, and tackle emerging problems, in all disciplines and areas, when all people see us capable of is running an (admittedly very modern and progressive) public library service?

I think that changing the perception of librarians and information professionals in any way can only be a good thing (hey, it might even help get us higher wages one day!), but I think changing the perceptions of the whole of the profession can only be a good thing as well. And I think that it has to come from within. I hate that when we introduce ourselves to people (and I know we mostly do this - I frequently do, and then kick myself later) we sort of cringe and say, terribly apologetically, 'Oh, i'm a law librarian'. You can almost hear the tacit 'sorry' tacked onto the end. As if that's not a good enough response! (hey, we could be introducing ourselves as a lawyer! far more cringe-worthy I'm sure). We have all this rhetoric about being proud of what we do, and standing up for the profession, and we talk the talk amongst ourselves, but put us in front of an outsider and we apologise for ourselves every time we discuss it. And this has a knock-on effect in everything we do (you think a managing partner is going to pay attention to your department if you can't even believe in yourself? I don't think so). There is such a broad scope of information professional roles out there, and I'd like to see librarians (information professionals!) not just embracing them, but advertising them. Promoting ourselves and our skills. Letting people know that we exist, that we do a highly skilled and kick-arse job, and that they should know about us!

Now, I'm not proposing any answers here, as I don't have any to give. I don't know what to do about it. What do you all think? How do you represent the profession? Do you cringe and apologise? What do you think we should be doing to try and broaden the perceived definition of librarian?

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

New blogger to the fold

I'd like to extend a very warm welcome to the UK legal library blogging scene (and gosh but isn't that a mouthful) to Jennie Law, a law librarian from Scotland! It's always wonderful to have some new faces in the community :)

We've got a whilst to go in matching the American contingent (so many blogging librarians over the water!), but give us time, we'll catch them up yet!

Monday, 18 June 2007


I had planned on posting while Hypatia was at BIALL, but seriously, how on earth do I compete with a bunny?!

I was also eaten by a combination of final assignments and the dreaded lurgy. As a result I'm a bit behind on my blogs, and have probably missed the boat on all the hot topics. :)

I did follow most of Gormangate, but I really don't have anything to add that hasn't already been said in much more eloquent terms. All I could do is read and shake my head.

My current project, however, is the article that I'm currently co-authoring, which is going to be published in the Autumn. This is both scary and exciting, as I've never written anything for publication before. It's not a terribly ground breaking topic, but we've got some tips that we'd like to share. And hopefully it's helpful to someone. It's due at the publishers next week, so this week is going to be a lot of fevered typing and huddles around computers. And lots of coffee and chocolate. I do feel a bit nervous about having a deadline that's not flexible - uni usually has plenty of flexibility for submission dates - and I'm hoping that I have the time to write at work rather than bringing it home.

I do look forward to seeing my name in print though. Hopefully this will be the first of many articles I pen.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

I meant to post the three-quarters written post that's been sitting in my drafts folder for about the last week before I left for BIALL, but I seem to have run out of time (time is something that I seem to be in seriously short supply of at the moment). I'm off to the conference in Sheffield this afternoon, and will be sans interwebs whilst I'm away, unless I should stumble upon a web cafe of some kind. (note to self: must get laptop /nods). I'll be twittering though, so keep an eye on that if you're interested.

And, in light of having a proper post of any real content, I give you a bunny. Cause I don't know about you, but my morning could totally do with some bunny schnorgling action.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007


I've noticed a lot of people succumbing to Facebook and getting accounts there and I'm one of them. I joined about a week ago, added some of my friends, and then got incredibly frustrated at it.

A lot of my frustrations come from things where I can understand why they've done what they've done, but I wish they hadn't. For example, I've gone to two different universities, and lived in two different countries. My friends come from a variety of places. However, I can only be part of one regional network at a time, and I can't join the group for one of my old universities, as I need a current email address. The uni thing I can understand. The regional network bit baffles me though. Another annoying thing was that when I joined the network for my current university I was then no longer in the network for London. Annoying thing number 3 - I've got about 6 friends on there at the moment, but when I look at my profile I only see one, as he is the only one in the London Network.

I get the feeling that I'm missing something. That I just don't 'get' it. So far, no one I've asked has been able to tell me what the appeal of the site is, except to say they love it. MySpace I get, even if I don't like it (too much sound and graphics that make my eyes bleed). Ning, while I don't have an account (Yet!!) I see it's use. Same with LinkedIn. Facebook just looks boring, and not user friendly.

Is there an evangelist out there that can explain it to me?

Monday, 4 June 2007

Links links linkity links

Many apologies for the lameness of our posting - we have both been beset on all sides with many many things to do, keeping us from the blog. As some small means of recompense I present you with this, pretty much entirely un-library related, list of interesting links. I don't remember where most of these came from - they are the result of clearing out a backlog of two months worth of saved interesting links.

Imagining the Tenth Dimension: Awesome visualisation of string theory and dimensions. Makes my brain hurt a bit, but very interesting.

The Crossing: Beautiful flash game by Orsinal (actually, all of their flash games are beautiful, but this one has little deer! What is there not to like?) list of lawlib blogs: Loooooong list of law library blogs. If I wasn't so information overloaded already, I might even give looking at it it some thought.

Slacker: More internet radio! I don't think this is new, I just think I missed it, but as the first track it played on the Alternative station was The Decemberists, it's already won me over :)

iTunes Autorate: An autorater for iTunes that makes me wish I had a Mac. I never remember to rate tracks in iTunes, and having it auto rate things according to how often I skip/play tracks would be kinda cool. Not terribly useful, but still kinda cool.

Five Ways to Mark Up the Web: A Techcrunch post talking about different tools that let you post-its or notes or other bits and pieces on webpages.

Screengrab: A Firefox extension that lets you take screengrabs of the entire length of a webpage, and save it in a variety of different formats. Handy tool.

Boomshine: Incredibly simple and incredibly addictive little online game. Soothing music too. I've wasted far too much time playing this.

listeningtowards: Lectures available for download. Amongst the most popular are Kurt Vonnegut and Bill Bryson - there are over 1000 on there, so there's bound to be something to slip into the mp3 player for those long dull commutes.

Lumosity: Brain training games to improve memory and processing speed - it makes me feel a bit like a computer in need of an upgrade, but it's interesting to do.

You Don't Know Jack: has reinvented itself as a web game! C'mon - you all remember it don't you? And now it's snarky trivia-tastic-ness is right there in my browser!

The essential guide to piracy: Remember kids, piracy is wrong. But if you're going to pirate, pirate safe, kay? No one wants the RIAA (or their international counterparts) on their tail.

46 essential KM blogs: Being up to my ears in knowledge management recently has made me check out all the KM blogs around. (Repeat after me - I don't need another blogging scene to get involved in. I don't, I don't)

Entropia Universe: not!Second Life. I haven't downloaded this yet, nor do I use Second Life, so I'm not really in a position to make comparisons. It's setting itself up as a competitor though, so it'll be one to watch out for.

and now, time for sleep. I promise we'll try and by more regular with the posts now though, really.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

The Results Oriented Work Environment: Or, why librarians can't have a balanced worklife

Ryan Healy had an interesting post last week on Brazen Careerist about work-life balance and independence. The general gist of it being that when we were in university we were taught (in theory) how to manage our own time - no one was making you go to class or study or party or sleep, or any of the things that needed to be done. It was up to the individual to produce the results at the end of the day. And if you didn't hand your assignment in, or missed a valuable tidbit of info cause you didn't go to class? Pretty much your own fault.

However, for some reason, within the corporate environment, it's like we're back in high school again. Have to be in at a certain time, couldn't possibly leave twenty minutes early, need to be doing certain tasks at given times - the independence to choose our own tasks and own best ways of working has been taken away from us. There is a move though, towards a better way of working - what he refers to as the Results Oriented Work Environment - where it is not the hours that we are in front of our computers that are important, but the results that we turn in at the end of the day.

This is a really popular issue, particularly in the States, where this kind of flexible working (particularly for information workers) has really taken off.

Now, whilst I don't agree with quite everything he's saying (I don't think it would be refreshing to not be able to distinguish at all between my working and non-working time - I like being able to turn off some of the time), I do think that work-life balance is something that is often overlooked within our sector. Unfortunately, though, we are fundamentally a customer service industry - someone needs to be here to man the reference desks and circulate journals and do all those other hands on jobs that need to be done.

In theory there's no reason why I couldn't work the reference desk from at home (even if it only was for a day or a morning a week). Most, if not all, of the resources I need are available online - I don't need to be in the physical library space to answer queries. Indeed, as an information worker, I could be anywhere to do the majority of the tasks for my job. It would be nice just to have that flexibility. I don't think a nine-to-five day is the best answer for me personally, and the way I best work - I'd love to have the option to time-shift and work an eleven-to-eight day, or work from home a few days a week. But most of my job works better with me being in the office - it's good to have face time with our users, sometimes you just need that hard copy text, and our work is not so autonomous and web-based that we can get away with not being in at all.

Sadly though, I just don't think that flexi-work in this kind of way is really practical for the library environment. As much as I'd like to work a time-shifted day, my lawyers are in the office from nine to five (well, give or take), so that's when I need to be there too. And someone needs to be here to do all those physical tasks that need to be done. It's great to see that other professional areas are taking up this idea, and that there is progressively being a move away from the traditional nine-to-five. It just isn't something that is really practical for the library sector just yet (well, at least not for the corporate library sector, anyway). Or is it? Anyone out there with flexible working arrangements, teleworking, anything like that? I'd love to know how it works for you (even if it is just to wish and dream that I could do it too!)

Thursday, 24 May 2007

New BIALL blog

Many thanks to Lo-Fi for pointing out that BIALL now has a blog - I'll be curious to see how that goes for them.

Though, James Mullan, I don't know how you manage to write so much - how many blogs are you writing for now?! I'm dead impressed with your writing power :)

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Keeping up to date

I started writing this as part of one of my assignments today at work.  And then when I got home and read through my blogs, I found this post from Librarian in Black, which lead me to Emily's post on Library Revolution.  And then a conversation started in my twitter about the same thing.   So it's all very timely at the moment. 

This then, is my personal reflection on keeping up to date with the profession.  Unpolished, but I thought I'd share it.


Keeping up with developments in the profession is an important part of the job. It is necessary to know what changes are being made in other libraries, what other librarians are doing, and also what new theories are currently coming out of the literature. It can be hard to find the time, especially when so many librarians are time poor and stretched to do what needs to be done. But it is something that we all should do, as part of our responsibilities to our patrons. I try as much as possible to keep up with what is happening. I’ve not yet had the privilege of going to a conference, but I have followed with interest the live blogging that goes on. I read a large number of blogs, both library related and general. I read a number of journals regularly, even if I only skim through some of the articles. I monitor both ALIA and CILIP. It is time consuming, but I personally feel it is worth my time. I do occasionally feel completely overwhelmed by it all, and then I will prioritise, and give things a miss that I don’t feel to be as important. I don’t get to read everything I would like to read all the time. There are lots of journals and books I’d love to spend my time reading. Instead I’ve had to choose what I think is going to be best for my career. Since I work in a legal environment, I tend to eschew the more academic and public library oriented articles and concentrate on special or legal oriented ones. It’s not a perfect method, but for now it’s keeping me up to date.

Twitter (again, I know - I promise we'll stop talking about it soon)

After some time of protesting on my behalf, it seems that the inevitable has occured - I've been struck by the Twitter bug. I blame Twitbin, personally, for making it so damn easy for me to post, and so compelling to watch it refresh itself over and over again. There's a certain balance point, it seems, once you've starting watching enough people to make it interesting, that you can't seem to tear yourself away - it's just this mini-conversation, playing away in the back of your mind.

I'm still not totally sold on it's usefulness as a tool in libraries or in organisations, but it is a fantastic social networking tool, occupying that void between IM (too personal, too intrusive) and blogging (too much like hard work).

I'm here, by the by, should anyone be struck by the misplaced desire to listen to me witter about the cup of tea I'm drinking or the email I'm writing or whatever it is that I'm patently not doing, because obviously, the only thing I could be 'doing right now' is writing for Twitter :)

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Joost - like tv, but better!

Oh! I nearly forgot to mention it! I've been playing about a bit with Joost this week, which I'm really quite enjoying. The content is relatively limited at the moment, but I expect that to grow with time. And what is there is quite interesting - lots of music channels, which I like a lot (I'm so out of touch with the Australian music scene!), and some fun things, like old cartoons and whatnot.

My biggest irritation with it is that there are some really interesting looking channels available on the American version, which we can't get here. It really is a shame that something like Joost, which you would like to think wouldn't be fettered by silly things like boundaries, still has location-limited content. Ah well. What there is is good though, and I'm quite enjoying what they have.

If anyone would like an invite to check it out, feel free to drop me a comment or email me at neohypatia at gmail, and I'd be more than happy to share them with you :)

Law Blog 2007 - and not a paper bag in sight!

Had a fabulous time at Geeklawyer's Legal Blogging Conference yesterday. It was certainly an interesting day, and good to be able to put faces to names and hear everyone speak. Pretty good turn-out for the first year out of the box, though it would have been nice to have a few more non-bloggers there to convert :) It was a pleasure to meet Family Law, Head of Legal and Binary Law, amongst others that I can't quite recall at the minute - my apologies.

Many interesting discussions of the ins and outs of blogging within the legal context, and a very interesting talk from Lee Bryant of Headshift, discussing social software, blogging, wikis, tagging, and whatnot, as being implemented within the corporate environment. Being the only librarian there (and I must say, I was expecting at least a few other legal blogging librarians to be there) it was great to get some insight into the way our lawyers are viewing blogging and all it's associated issues. Very heartening to know that all this crazy new-fangled social media type stuff is starting to catch on in Chambers too!

I did stay around for a quick pint (no Rioja for me, I'm afraid!), but had to make my leave early, as I was fighting a horrid headcold all day, which finally caught up with me. My apologies to all concerned - I hope you had a tremendous night. I'm looking forward to next year already :)

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Things and stuff...

It's been a bit quiet around here, but we've not been idle. To make up for no posts for a week, have four posts in one!

After doing a bit of research, and scouting through other blogs, we've decided to trial Google's Adsense. It should hopefully be unobtrusive, and mostly unnoticeable but it will be an interesting experiment. Personally, I've always wanted to know if the Google ads actually work, so this will be a good experiment to see if people do actually click on the ads.

In a similar vein, Google Analytics recently changed their report layout, and we've spent many hours playing with all the reports and statistics. It's quite useful to know what posts get the most hits, and so what people like the most about the blog. I've also signed up and am now using Analytics on my personal blog, as a way to see if a) it does get any visitors at all and b) if so where are they coming from and why do they come to the page.

Meebo has just released MeeboRooms, which are just like the chatrooms of old, just a little more advanced. Basically, the Rooms mean you can share media with the people in your room, and watch YouTube videos together. Obviously, chat rooms are back in fashion. :) They have the ability to be embedded into pages, but when I attempted to add a room to a wiki I'm working on, it didn't quite work. I'm going to need to spend a bit of time playing with it, but if I can get the room working on the wiki, I'll be very happy. Apart from the usual social uses of such a room, I can see it helping in distance education - especially being able to have a 'classroom' feel, where you can watch something with your classmates and then discuss it. Also, training sessions, and possibly, maybe, video conferencing. So someone could be giving a presentation, being filmed via webcam that can then be embedded into the Meebo room. The more I think about it the more uses I can think of!

I've started using Twitbin at home, which does make twitter dangerously easy to use. Instead of having to click through my firefox tabs to find my twitter tab, I simply look at my sidebar. It does make me glad I don't have firefox at work! I'm not following many feeds yet, but I can now see that changing now that it's easier to follow them. I've never been able to make the RSS feeds work in bloglines, so this will be a much easier way to keep up with things.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

the blog as tree

This is, apparently, a graphical representation of our blog:

There is a key, on the site, that explains what all the little dots mean (things to do with embedded links and whatnot), but I kind of don't really mind - I just rather thought that it was interesting and pretty and I wanted to share it :)

(found via swissmiss)

Friday, 4 May 2007

The ladder or the rope?

I recently read a really interesting post from Michelle at A Wandering Eyre, discussing the generational shift in attitudes from people below a certain age, to those above it. It was good to hear someone else articulate it - how frustrating it is to be young and skilled and motivated and wanting to make a difference in your workplace, only to be told that you haven't been there long enough, that you needed to 'pay your dues'.

We no longer live in an environment where you work at the same job for most of your working life. I enjoy my current workplace, and I still can't see myself staying here much beyond three years or so. I'll want to move on, expand my skill set, meet new people, and continue to grow, both as a person and professionally. But I see it time and again, both in places I have worked, and those of my friends, that the new ideas they put forward (if they are even given the voice to do so) are not seen as valuable - they are discussed and sidelined, or simply ignored. I admit that I am spoiled where I work now - I'm given the freedom to find projects that are meaningful to me, and am given the scope to present ideas that I think will change my workplace for the better. But most people of my age group are not.

It was one of the things that frustrated me most whilst I was studying my MLS. I was being given these skills, and all these wonderful, challenging, exciting ideas were filling my head. And then I was told that I couldn't use them. Maybe, maybe, in ten, fifteen, twenty years time, when I had the experience and was the manager of my own library, maybe then I could think about making changes. And one of the things I enjoy most about the biblioblogosphere (although I do hate that word!) is that it has given us a space to voice these changes we want to make, and see them happen. (The success of programs such as Five weeks to a social library is testament to that).

I think it's different, as well, working within the legal environment. I think that the culture here (well, within the libraries anyway) is a lot more dynamic - there's an awful lot of job churn as people move on to different firms with different interests or more pay or whatever. However, I also think that (comparatively to, say, an academic library) there is a lot less scope for creating large change within the legal library. Lawyers don't want to change - and when you have to present your ideas to partners who scarcely even know what you do half the time, it can be hard to make interesting changes. The library just isn't as well valued as we would like it to be. And I don't think that's necessarily a generational issue, just a cultural one.

But I do know that I won't wait around the ten or fifteen years to make a change. I'll be forging my own path, choosing where I want to go, taking the rope instead of waiting for the ladder.

What do you all think? Do you think there is still scope for a culture that asks us to 'pay our dues'? Or is it time to move onto a new way of thinking about our career paths and where our jobs will take us?

ETA: Reading all the comments on Michelle's original post, and some of the posts in response to it, I wanted to clarify that this certainly isn't just a generational issue, but much more of attitude issue. I know that there are younger people who don't want to make changes as much as there are older people who are just as progressive as we youths like to think we are. And I know this isn't a simple issue - not all ideas for change are good or valuable or viable, and they should be considered thoughtfully within the context of your organisation. But it is about making sure that change does happen, whether that change comes from the bottom or the top.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007


Continuing the theme tonight, Jessamyn over at posted a link to a new Livejournal community - lolbrarians.   

Following in the tradition of lolcats and I can has cheezburger, it's cat macros but with librarians!  I'm looking forward to lots of silly fun!  

A Map of Online Communities

This is fantastic! XCKD, which is a fantastic webcomic anyway, has posted a fantastic map-representation of the interwebs and all the various communites here. I'm not sure what my most favourite bits are - the treacherous river Bittorrrent? The Ocean of Subculture with the dangerous Viral Straits? Of course, being part of the Blogipeligo, I'm somewhat biased in that direction. (And? seriously, such a better name than blogosphere - I vote we change to calling it that instead /nods)Go look! It's wonderful :)

Monday, 30 April 2007

Email or not to email

Steven Cohen over at Library Stuff linked to an article on email use and younger web users, which had some really interesting things to say about teenagers and 20 somethings preferring IM and SMS to emailing.

I'm a 20 something that falls outside of the age bracket usually referred to in articles like this, but it is something I've noticed. Most of my friends barely use email, and would much prefer to SMS me. My younger siblings are barely off of MSN and the only time I receive an email from them is when they want to forward something on. I'm much more likely to receive a comment on a blog or a tweet on twitter than I am to get an actual email. And the email I do get these days is mostly from mailing lists, or confirmation emails.

In work terms, I do receive a lot of email, although it is mostly short and to the point, information that is necessary for me to carry out a task, or that I need to keep a record of. And I've noticed a tendency in people to ignore things that don't immediately require their attention. One example of this - I sent an email asking about a missing looseleaf in November and I didn't recieve a read reciept for it until February, and I never got a response.

There is some element of 'information overload' to this. People receive so much email on a daily basis that they can't keep up. Some people then tend to ignore it, and others, move to other services, for example moving mailing list subscriptions to an rss reader rather than email. Or as the article shows, move to more immediate communication tools like SMS, IM and more web 2.0 type sites like Facebook and Twitter.

As a way of getting around this, my work, and I've heard of a few others doing this, will occaisionally dedicate days as 'no email days', so that we have to call someone, or go and speak to them, unless the email is absolutely necessary. And amazingly, there is a difference in the response that you receive. Problems are solved much more quickly, conversations are had with people that you wouldn't normally speak to, and it's generally more pleasant overall. I hate the phone with a passion, but I still end up enjoying the 'no email days'.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Welcome to the machine

And in more slightly creepy news, Google officially launched their Web History tool earlier this week. And whilst there is a certain cool factor in being able to see your web history no matter which computer you are on, I don't know if I'm really entirely comfortable with it. Particularly when I can access my search history all the way back to 2005. I don't recall signing up for that. (maybe I did? I'm not entirely sure how it works, and I am a terminal early adopter of things - so many accounts which I've signed up for and forgotten - that maybe I did say they could store all my search history without me knowing). And it certainly isn't everything, cause I've definitely done more than the 600 or so searches it says I have in the last two years.

However, in light of the Google move on DoubleClick, and the subsequent complaint from US privacy groups, it might not be so unreasonable to worry about why Google might want to be tracking our search data. Thankfully, it's easy to turn off, if you don't want Google knowing too much about your buying habits, or you late night furtive searches, but it is something to bear in mind...

Vista and the myth of content protection

So, I find this - A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection - (found via BoingBoing) more than a little worrying. I don't have Vista, nor do I at any point plan to get Vista, but had I been considering it? This would have changed my mind.

More than just a rant about the powers that be, this is a blow-by-blow analysis of the ways in which Window's new platform is attempting to cripple your system. Microsoft doesn't want you to be able to use your product, that you bought with your money. They don't want you to be able to have ownership of your own content. Microsoft want to be able to own and control every aspect of the system you use.

It's a lengthy article, but one that I think is well worth reading. Peter Gutmann undertakes a examination of all the ways in which the extensive 'content protection' in place in Windows Vista hinders the user and the product they have bought. As he states in the executive summary:

"Providing this protection incurs considerable costs in terms of system performance, system stability,technical support overhead, and hardware and software cost. These issues affect not only users of Vista but the entire PC industry, since the effectsof the protection measures extend to cover all hardware and software that will ever come into contact with Vista, even if it's not used directly with Vista (for example hardware in a Macintosh computer or on a Linux server)."

Or, as he puts it more succinctly - the Vista Content Protection Specification may well constitute the longest suicide note in history.

(The Microsoft response to this is here, by the way, but is so filled with spin and double-talk as to be nearly meaningless)

As Jim Allchin, recently Co-President, Platforms and Services Division of Microsoft, who retired the day Vista shipped, was quoted as saying, "LH [Longhorn — now known as Vista] is a pig and I don’t see any solution to this problem."

And what implication does this have for libraries? Well, quite a few things, really. If older versions of Windows are no longer supported, it may result in organisation being forced into costly upgrades, or be denied support. If manufacturers are forced to be Vista compliant, the price of both software and hardware will rise, in order to meet increased development costs. Crippling DRM may drastically slow down, if not halt, digitisation projects. We could be looking at library management systems that won't migrate, costly software rewrites, or, worse, having to start systems again from scratch.

What it does mean, is that libraries need to be looking elsewhere than in proprietary systems. We will need to look into moving away from Windows towards Linux or even (gasp!) Macs to run our libraries. Moving towards Open Source library management systems. Making the most of web applications that don't need to be tied to an OS. Investigating alternate resources, rather than settling for the same old thing, time and time again. Be the ones that champion new initiatives in your organisation. Explore the alternatives, do the research, and come back with a business case to sell. Because if we can't do the research into the available alternatives, who can?

Friday, 13 April 2007

Blogging at work

I was reading Real Lawyers Have Blogs on blogging policies for companies. As he says, most companies now do have (or should have) internet and email use policies, and it's not a terribly far leap from there to a blogging policy. I do wonder, though, about how this would be implemented.

I'm of two minds at the moment about internet and email policies - though there is a 'best practice' notional idea of what should be allowed and what shouldn't, what actually is and isn't allowed is a completely different thing. Across the law firms that I have worked at, and through talking to friends at other firms, I have encountered a wide range of policies, from seemingly complete freedom to install programs, chat, email, browse and generally do what you like, to middling policies that restrict 'inappropriate' sites and don't allow installation of programs or chat protocols, but do allow pretty much anything else, to the highly draconian, no personal emails at all through work channels, no webmail access, and severely restricted internet access.

Email and internet use at work is a tricky thing. You don't want your employees wasting their time when they could be being productive, but on the other hand, it is by now unreasonable to assume that all internet use is friviolous. I feel more productive, and certainly more relaxed at work, when I have the freedom to check my RSS feeds, and my ebay auctions, my webmail and my bank account. Indeed, I feel that internet use is so closely woven into many peoples lives now, that it is more productive to allow them some freedom of internet use. It seems, to an extent, to come down to how much trust an employer has in its employees, and how an emplyees time is perceived - whether your workplace feels that it owns all of your working hours, or whether you are trusted to be able to monitor your own productivity and workflows.

However, mostly, issues between employee and employer don't crop up until it becomes a major issue - massive loss of productivity through internet use, malicious emails or attachments that break the server, and blogs that harm the reputation of the company. These are, obviously, not the ideal, and should be dealt with appropriately.

I do worry that there may be more cases such as the one that Real Lawyers cites, from Hegarty Solicitors where and employee caught updating a blog at work "was disciplined and told that if they continued to write the blog at work they may be later dismissed." (and no, I'm not going to mention how much of this post was written whilst at work – can't be getting myself in trouble now).

Blogging, like all other internet activities, is by no means inherently bad. Indeed, not even all work-related blogging is harmful. Employees can blog, even from work, without harming their productivity, endangering the IT infrastructure of their workplace, or slandering their work. And I very much hope that when employers come to write policies that include the use of blogs, that they realise this. It will be a very sad day indeed if a workplace decides to ban Blogger (or Wordpress, or Facebook, or Myspace, or Livejournal, or whatever), because they perceive all blogging to be harmful.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Writers block = linkspam

Interesting links that I ran across today:

ISSNs for blogs: This is an interesting idea, and I'd be keen to see it get off the ground, at least for establised and widely read blogs. Blogs with very large readerships could very well benefit from being recorded in this way, and if nothing else it's a good way to continue the move towards blogs being seen as a reliable content provider.

The top ten firefox extensions to avoid: I can't say I really agree with this (indeed, I use all but three of their ten extensions, and love them to little squishy pieces). But it's good to see people questioning these things. Nothing will make me think that either Adblock or PDF Download are anything but a wonderful tool, and Greasemonkey scripts make my browsing ever so much easier, but I do agree that FasterFox's prefetching is an unnecessary drain on resources, and that NoScript and Greasemonkey can be dangerous and complicated for the inexperienced user. It's easy to go a bit hogwild with extensions (there are so many interesting and useful things!), so it's nice to hear an alternative viewpoint. (both from What I learned today

Google cheat sheet: I expect quite a few people have already seen this, or already know a lot of the info on here, but this site provides a simple and clear rundown of all of Google's services (and gosh but there are a lot of them), including a lot of more obscure tips, including the query structure for finding mp3s (-inurl:htm -inurl:html intitle:"index of" mp3 "Artist Name" ), and the structure for finding non-porntastic sex info (safesearch: sex education) .

Feedity: For creating rss-feeds from sites that don't have them (and yes, I am looking at you, UK governmental websites), and

RSS fwd: For forwarding on RSS feeds to email, for those people that haven't quite caught on yet.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Blogging Code of Conduct

Hopefully this wouldn't affect too many of you, but it's something we should be aware of. Tim O'Reilly has created a draft 'Blogger's Code of Conduct'.

According to the BBC

The code was drawn up by web pioneer Tim O'Reilly following published threats and perceived harassment to US developer Kathy Sierra on blogs.

I first heard of what was happening to Kathy on Apophenia, and then I followed through a few links to have a better understanding of what was going on. And I can definitely understand where the concern is coming from. It's not something that I've experienced myself, but I can appreciate how nerve wracking and upsetting it can be.

Which brings me to Tim's code of conduct. The code has 6 points, all which relate to being civil and polite, and basically thinking before you speak. Pretty much common sense. But how do you codify common sense? And how can you enforce it? And is it really needed?

Unfortunately, as my bus trips often prove, there's no way of forcing others to be polite, considerate or even civil. And in an online environment, it's just as hard. Deleting someone's comment can result in calls of 'censorship', private emails can be posted in public forums, and the whole thing can get messy. Where in the 'real world', comments are verbal and only heard by those in the immediate vicinity, online the words are written and are there for anyone to see. Even deleting posts or comments doesn't mean that the words are gone. People will print screen the page to have a record of something said, so that later they can prove their point. We'd all like to think that others would act civilliy, but there's just no way to make it happen.

Another point in the code relates to anonymity:
5. We do not allow anonymous comments.

We require commenters to supply a valid email address before theycan post, though we allow commenters to identify themselves with analias, rather than their real name.

This point has garnered the most response in the comments to Tim's original post, and a number of valid counter arguments are mentioned. Anonymity has it's place. I, here on Enquiring Minds, quite like my anonymity, and plan to keep it. It's quite easy to make a valid email address using any one of the numerous free webmail services available. And honestly, anonymity is an important aspect of the web. It's helped shape so much of what it is, and taking that away, even from a small aspect of it, would be a shame.

I do realise that the code would be opt in, but as a blog reader, I would have to 'opt in' on blogs that I read that subscribe to the code. And as such, it's not really so 'opt in'. And I cringe at the idea of the web being 'policed' in some way, even a small way. Personally, I don't think that civility can be enforced, not without severe repurcussions. It would just make situations worse, as the adage goes, "making a mountain out of a molehill".

And besides, he's made really tacky badges. That's not going to make me want to get involved. :)