Thursday, 29 March 2007

Five non-library blogs (or, What? Of course I don't suffer from information overload...)

This seems to be the hip meme of the minute (and I'm always one to succumb to a meme). I've seen it in a whole bunch of places, so I'm just going to consider myself tagged.

Five non-library blogs I read. (well, maybe six...)

This is a hard question. Like, really, really hard. I have 311 feeds in my bloglines account, and I read most of them at least semi-regularly. At least half I probably read daily. Choosing five out of that is not an easy challenge. But I'll give it a go.

Lifehacker: I couldn't really function without this site. Programs and tips and tricks and news for making spending most of my time online more bearable. Time saving, streamlining, tools for productivity and generally making your life in front of your computer as awesome as possible.

BoingBoing: All the news that you won't see anywhere else - alternative politics and just generally interesting stuff. Between boingboing and Neatorama (see how I snuck that one in!) i find out about all the news that I need to know about. (what? I do need to know about ecologically sound coffins and Ribena not really having that much vitamin C in it after all - don't you?)

I Can Haz Cheezburger?: It's cat macros. What more do I need to say? Not quite as cute as cute overload (see, doing it again), but cat macros make me laugh till I cry. Although I may at times to prone now to randomly saying things like 'invisible bike!' and wondering why everyone doesn't laugh with me...

Advertising for Peanuts: Good advertising is good. Bad advertising is bad. This blog helps me keep up with good advertising (sadly, most of which never seems to see light of day in the UK)

Wooster Collective: Cool, grungy, urban streetart. Often political, and often beautiful. Innovation and beauty in resistance and adversity. Lots of things to like here.

Tigers and Strawberries: I read more food blogs than I possibly could know what to do with. Sadly, I'm a bad blog reader and a lot of them merge together for me. Tigers and Strawberries stands out, as it covers a lot of Asian cooking (which I cook a lot) in an informed and anecdotal way. And everything she makes looks fantastic :)

There are lots more that I read regularly, and a great many that I at least give a passing scan to. I seem to be adding more every week. Information overload, I know, but how can I help being interested in things, when there's so many interesting things to know?

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Making a Stand

Lore Librarian today posted to an interesting article on entitled Law Librarians Should Learn to Drive Their Stock Up.

Though it does indeed, as Lore Librarian points out, start a little tritely (I can't say I've ever been known to shush, or be shushed in a law library, and it's just that kind of image we're trying to move away from), the article is actually quite interesting. Particularly as it isn't written by a librarian.

Librarians wages are all over the place, there doesn't seem to be any sort of consistent industry standard, and what's more, compared with other professional industries, we are not paid a comparable wage.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services in the US, in a recent study on the future of library workers found that:

law firms are looking for librarians who not only have both a master's in library science and a law degree but who alsohave expertise in law, business, finance, science and/or medicine. And an MBA, fluency in a foreign language and technological know-howwouldn't hurt either, a panel on law libraries found. Many are expectedto manage resources and handle research requests across multiple offices.

And that there? That's an awful lot of skills. Skills that should be recognised.

We provide an invaluable, but often undervalued service in our firms. We are increasingly on the cutting edge of new technology and information. We are expected to provide multiple services at once (researcher, knowledge manager, press searcher, marketer, IT consultant, cataloguer, administrator, general dogsbody and finder of things, to name a few). We are a professional industry, often with more qualifications than the lawyers we work for. But if we don't stand up and make a case for ourselves, we are never going to be recognised for the service we provide, whether that recognition is fiscal or otherwise. (how many of you work for firms that don't recognise what work you do, and don't see the value in what the library does for the firm?)

But, as the article says, there are things we can do. Start charging back our time - we're doing work for clients, there's no reason it can't be charged back. The libraries income isn't likely to be comparable to that of a fee-earner, but it's still going to be more than nothing, and that's something. Prepare reports - tell management what you're doing, why you're doing it, how much time you're saving for your fee-earners, how much money you're making the firm. Raise your profile within the firm - don't make people come to you. Be out there on the floors, asking people what they need, telling fee-earners what you can do for them - make yourself seen and people will start to realise how much you do for them.

And if all else fails, I say call a strike. You just see how quickly the firm realises how much they value your team when you all don't do your jobs for a week :)

Looseleaf tracking

As part of my job, I organise the looseleaf updates. When each update arrives, I check it in and give each one a number, so that I can then track where it is. Currently, this is done via an excel spreadsheet, with a variety of sheets, so I can search alphabetically, and also by whether it has been filed or not. The problem is that this file has been going for a number of years and is quite large, and loading, saving and making any changes, takes an incredibly long time.

I'd really like to start a new system, but apart from starting a new spreadsheet, I'm out of ideas for how to do this. I'd like something straightforward, and as simple as my spreadsheet, but better. :) What would be really nice, would be a nice searchable webpage, with a database backend, but I certainly don't have the time to build one!

What I'd like to know, is how do you keep track of your looseleafs? Or do you track them at all?

Monday, 26 March 2007

Front Page News

I realise that this is another post about Twitter, but as the FT says, it's the next big thing.

It was a front page story in todays Financial Times, and you can bet, if the FT has picked it up the other broadsheets will follow soon. The only concern about this is, if it starts getting press, and more and more users sign up, will the service stand the test? And will the surge in users then skew any adoption stats?

If, as the article says, it is

the first application that people have got excited about since Flickr came out
then will it get bought out like both Flickr and YouTube? And what consequences might that have on the service?

Then again, the article goes on to say:
I don't think it will be the next YouTube - but I do think it will gain wide adoption (said Ross Mayfield, a Valley entrepreneur)

so maybe this will just be a flash in the pan until something new comes along.

(The article is available on the FT website here, but it's a subscription based service)

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Twitter yet again

An interesting link was sent my way today, and thought I'd pass it on.

It's a map of twitter posts, in realtime. You can either view it as a whole, or look specifically at your location. It's quite absorbing, and yes, voyeuristic. But interesting. It could be very useful in the case of an event or something similar, see how people are reacting to the same thing. Or you could do what I did and just sit and watch where and what people are twittering. Also, it could be useful, simply as a demographic studying tool.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Shift happens

This has been floating around the library blogs a bit, but I thought it was interesting and thought provoking enough to repost.

It's so easy not to notice things like this, not to pay attention to the way the world is changing at such a mind-blowing, hurtling rate. It's good to get reminded of it now and then. It's all a bit terrifying really - I can't even begin to imagine what the world will be like in another 25 years time.

(with thanks to Winnefox, from whom I found the clip)

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

That Twitter thing

You can't escape it at the moment. Everyone's talking about it. South by Southwest has been taken over by it. It's the next biggest smallest thing in blogging - Twitter.

It's the newest, trendiest kind of microblogging. Rather than having to post something of length (or interest) you can post quick snapshots of what you are doing. It comes across as a stream of consciousness babble of 'what I'm doing right now'. And yes, I know what you're thinking. Why? There's no point! People will just be posting endless nonsensical streams of 'Oh my cat just did the cutest thing!' and 'I'm going to bed now'. Which, to be fair, it is used for. But it can be used for so much more.

There's been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere of late talking about what libraries could be doing with Twitter, and what other applications people and organisations are using it for.

Libraryclips and Splashcast talk about applications for Twitter and the top tools for Twitter, and David Lee discusses library specific applications for it.

Here at micropersuasion, they have developed a basic Google search for Twitter, which could be useful, though I expect there's an awful lot of content to be trudging through - you'd want quite a specific search!

It could be used for keeping track of what people are doing on a project, tracking what people are doing when working in disparate locations, keeping a personal running tally of reference questions, as a list making tool, a checklist, or just a way of communicating with your teammates.

If nothing else, it's at the peak of the internet zeitgeist at the moment and it's in our best interests to keep an eye on it. It might not have any lasting longevity - it might be one of those passing internet fads that have their hour in the sun, but it may not. It's in the nature of these shiny new toys for them to gain popularity, and then gain more features, more functionality, more people writing hacks and tools and tips and tricks to integrate it into our work in ever more interesting ways. In a few years time, who knows how it might be being used? And in the meantime? It's a pretty cool way of keeping track of what peoples cats are doing :)

Web 2.0 Directory

We made a new discovery today, a directory of Web 2.0 sites. It's a fantastic way of finding new sites, and I can see myself spending many an hour looking at the sites listed there. However, I think it's got some work needed, in terms of information design and accessibility. The main problem is the sheer size of the directory which leads to a massive load time.

However, if you've got some time to kill, it looks like it could be quite a useful tool. There's a number of ways of searching or browsing the directory, though in true Web 2.0 style the main way is by way of a tag cloud.

My first observation on looking at the page? "wow, there's a lot of lime green and blue on there!" :)

Monday, 12 March 2007

Web 2.0 Seminar

Last Tuesday Hypatia and I attended a free seminar on Web 2.0 which was a fairly interesting night. It seemed to be aimed at academic and public librarians who hadn't had too much exposure to the whole 2.0 phenomena.

The presenter had a number of really interesting projects on the go, but they all seemed to involve a dedicated programming team. Unfortunately most law library's don't have the luxury of an IT department with time to devote to that kind of project. Though the fun you could have with Ajax on your side.

As Hypatia has said though, there are numerous sites available that one can make use of, within the library team, and I'm looking forward to the discussions that may come up as a result of that. Currently on the cards at HQ presently is the introduction of a team blog or wiki, though we still need to have some discussion on how this would work and how to incorporate it into our everyday tasks.

There were a number of interesting catchprases that came out of Tuesday, which stuck in my mind. 'Experimental Social Trust' is a fantastic way of selling 2.0, and I've already used this. Other useful phrases include 'Perpetual Beta', 'Collective intelligence' and 'harnessing the wisdom of crowds'.

Something that was completely new to me was the concept of 'mashups'. At least in the context being used. A mashup is:

A web mashup is a web page or application that combines data from two or more external online sources. The external sources are typically other web sites and their data may be obtained by the mashup developer in various ways including, but not limited to: APIs, XML feeds, and screen-scraping.

There looks like there's a few interesting mashups out there, and it's definitely something to watch.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Gotta start somewhere

I've been thinking a lot this week about web 2.0 technologies, and how to go about implementing them in the library. Particularly, implementing them in the law library – traditionally one of the hardest places to get any sort of new idea off the ground. My immediate co-workers and I are all really quite keen about the idea, but there's not much institutional support, and not likely to be any time in the forseeable future. But we want to get something started, and I think that starting from within the library is the best way to go.

We're not going to beable to convince partners and lawyers to buy expensive enterprise level rss programs, we're not going to be able to force our budgetaround expensive aggregated search tools that would let us create rss feeds of our current awareness. But we can start small and local.

We don't need to have a staff training manual – we can have a team wiki instead, where we add information that we think is important, and we can all add and edit and play away with it to our hearts content. And it's not tied to a file that might get lost or corrupted. It's not all trapped in one of our heads. It's online and searchable and there tomorrow should a colleague decide to move to Guatamala (or whatever) and take their harddrive with them, and we were to suddenly find ourselves with an information shortage that we have no way of fixing. (Peanut Butter Wiki and WikiSpaces are good examples of free web-based wikis that you can start as easily as a blogger account).

A shared account is a much easier way of sharing links and online resources and all those little important tidbits of information that any team is constantly emailing to one another. Why search back through outlook emails (and I don't know about you, but my work gets kinda cranky when the inbox size starts creeping up and up and up) when you can post them all to and find them again much more easily. And, again, no information is trapped with any particular individual. That's the joy of this sort of technology - shared information is the way of the future (I know I'm preaching to the converted here, but still).

These will both take time to set up, and will probably take up more time for us than the equivilant tasks currently, but once their in place, then they're there, and the infrastructure is in place to continue sharing, learning and collaborating our knowledge.

Once we know how it works, and have been using it in our day to day jobs, getting stuff done with it, seeing how much better it makes our working life, and how much easier collaboration and sharing is this way, then, maybe, we can think about making a business case for it. It's gonna be a while til the law community catches on (sadly, it's just the nature of the industry). But that's no reason not to start using it where we can.


Welcome to our new home on the web. I'm Seshat and my co-host is Hypatia.

Our aim with this blog is to have somewhere to talk and vent about topics such as our work, our profession, the internet and that new fangled thing called Web 2.0, as well as having somewhere to share anything interesting that we find along our travels.

And so welcome! And thank you for joining us. :)