Monday, December 14, 2009

The New and The Old

The new library just won the GGB BDP Building of The Year Award.

Fenestration News (if you want to know about glass walls)

Cardiff library at e-architect.

BD Online, the architects' site - a review of new buildings in Cardiff.
Here's Owen Hatherley:
"The library, part of the same development, is mannered on the outside; a barcode facade meeting copper cladding, with the entrance to Wagamama clearer than that of the library itself. The interior is better, balancing activity and quietness with a hint of brutalism about the materials."

One phrase from BDP Chairman Tony McGuirk struck me oddly, though, as he is quoted as saying "The first step of genius was to place the library at the centre of the street, the second step was to create an architecture both externally and internally that creates an irresistible place for people to spend their learning time".
The Old Library I agree that it is a good looking building, but as to its location, the 'stroke of genius' seems to closely resemble the design decision made back in 1882, when what we now call The Old Library was placed right in the middle of The Hayes, next to the market. And its opening day was declared a public holiday! They really knew how to do grand openings back then! :-)

The extended version, with the wonderful south-facing facade, was later inaugurated by The Prince of Wales himself, in 1896 - as anyone willing to pop over to Wikipedia would know - and the building remained in use as a library until 1988.

I wonder if this new one will last 92 years?

Oh, and the Old Library is still functioning, by the way, over a hundred years later, but now as a tourist and information centre.
Here's an interesting exhibition inside it (dig those interiors! Some of our staff remember that place. I was a customer back then, I never worked there) : The Cardiff Story.

But don't mind me, I only work here in The New. And my office is pleasant enough...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Kicking and Screaming into the 21st Century

Actually, we've been here in the new century for nearly a decade, although some (but not all) staff, some (but not all) ICT departments, sombunall management teams, sombunall members of the public don't seem to have got up to speed yet.

Quick as a phone call
I don't intend to sound snarky, just because I use a Blackberry. Email me, I respond ASAP - and I prefer it to phonecalls, not only because they interrupt meetings, and still don't seem appropriate in the library environment, but because I have a written record of exchanges.

Email people who may check their emails every few days and you might as well have sent them a snailmail letter. So I can't use that for quick advice to all staff (20 buildings across the city).

Blogs, Wikis and other Library 2.0 tools
Similarly, although I have a blog (this one), and have set up e-learning modules through a Learning Pool channel, and also added staff FAQs to the same zone, very few people seem able (or inclined) to access them.

I would prefer to set up a Wiki structure, so that we could all contribute to hone elegant and clear FAQs - relevant to staff's everyday enquiries - but this seems a bit ambitious. Cardiff has started a Knowledge Bank wiki on the intranet, but library staff do not seem to consider it part of their space.

All this to mention a Wiki that has been set up - a Local Government Library Technology Wiki

It seems worth a visit, even if you don't intend to contribute or edit material.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Noisy Librarians!

The library staff no longer shush people: they can chat, laugh, talk on the phone, even eat noisily if they want!

And yes, that sentence remains deliberately ambiguous!

This morning I was training a couple of members of staff to use our new shelf scanners (and admittedly I do have a rather booming voice) when I got shushed by a member of the public who was trying to revise!

No, we don't provide any quiet areas for study any more.

Still, I don't think I am the first member of library staff to be accused of being noisy.

Noisy Library Staff

Noisy Library, Peaceful Mind from Eva's Book Addiction.

Southwark Noisy Library Day on Flickr

Letter to The Times from Sue Mckenzie, President of the Association of London Chief Librarians

A noisy library is a joyful thing

Monday, December 7, 2009

Useful Web 2.0 links for libraries

SLIC website
The Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) have combined with CILIP to produce a helpful 10 page guide to the use of Web 2.0 technologies in libraries - PDF version available here.

They also offer some interesting webpages discussing these options, possibilities and futures...including offers of support and advice.

For example, on the Guidance page you will find:

Have a clear purpose
It is easy to be drawn in by the latest tool, especially high profile sites like Twitter, without proper consideration of targets and expected outcomes. Try to match the service to a business need rather than using just for the sake of it.
Be responsive
Most Web2.0 services are interactive, involving sustained input and communication. If your users take the time to contact you, you should always try to reciprocate.
Be prepared for informality
The open and instantaneous nature of Web2.0 services means that communication can be particularly informal. Do not be afraid to embrace this, less formality may help to engage potential users and even update the image of your service.

All of which may come as a surprise to managers who like the idea, but who don't realise the follow-through necessary for incorporating these approaches, from selecting and training staff to giving them the time (and delegating the responsibility) to allow staff to respond quickly and informally.

I note that in the PDF the main problem remains for many libraries not the staff skills, or the management's approach, but simply the resistance to change from the ICT departments around the country. Currently, for instance, staff here cannot access Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Google Wave or any Blogger blogs - to name but five. And although staff PCs can access Facebook, they are discouraged from using it (or familiarizing themselves with it) in work time.

I have no opinion either way about which direction we should take, but it is reassuring to hear that the problems we encounter are similar across the board, and not local to us. This website looks like a very useful, and growing, resource.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

If you write as good as you talk, nobody reads you

Simon Hoggart managed to get a laugh out of Camden Council (in London) with this wonderful example of bureaucratic language. If everyone wrote like this, no-one would read books (including me).

Reader John Richardson sends in a magnificent example of jargon, from a report by Camden council, north London, called "Growing Your Library" [sic]. This turns out to mean sacking lots of staff and replacing them with barcode scanners. It includes phrases such as "information plinths" and reads in part: "The People work stream sits alongside service visioning, ICT procurement, spatial strategy, pilot RFID (radio frequency identification), enabled library and communications work streams."

The Good Library Guide has already picked up on this, but I’ll mention it anyway.

Just to be fair, however, when I looked at the PDF the Council offers on ‘Grow Your Library’ (I don’t even like the title: ‘grow your own…’ maybe, or ‘grow your libraries’ perhaps), there’s something about the rhythm or the grammar that just doesn’t work as a slogan for me. [muses] ...Grow your rose, grow your pig, no it doesn’t work for me.


Anyway, I can find no phrasing quite as awful as the bit Mr Hoggart quotes, in the PDF.

We all live with 'noisy library theory' these days...

Oh, and the title for the post is the way I remember Lou Reed dealing with an inarticulate heckler...on Take No Prisoners (read Gadfly for background)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Too creative with the truth

What the people noticed The local papers rang the library, enquiring about an incident which had been reported to them.

Whoever alerted them failed to realise how creative our Leisure Department are.

They seem to have missed the announcement of a visit from crime author Peter James, for a book signing - disguised as a Wanted Poster.

They failed to notice the Author's Visit announcement We also have some wonderful messages scrolling across our plasma screens, from the BBC feed.

Quite often they seem so gnomic and unlike a headline that you wonder how you would trace the story, but some seem so eye-catching that staff have accused me of smuggling them in!

Today the one that stopped me was:

Mammoth dung clue to evolution
(it didn't help that my brain read that as something like - massive 'dung-clue' to evolution).

Probably this story... :-)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Requesting Google Wave invites

Carl Clayton at Sinto has created a page for library and information workers to request invites.

I assume each person gets 8 invites they can pass onto friends, and it seems worth organising, so as not to waste invites on people who already got in, or who don't want to play, etc.

Currently, one of my sub-personalities got invited, so he will probably keep his invites for creative friends scattered world-wide.  :-)

If my 'real self' also gets an invite (different Gmail accounts) then I may have some to share with library folks. But don't hold yer breath!

New Wave

I was glad to hear that some librarians and information workers had begun exploring the possibilities of Google Wave, but unfortunately I can't join in, as the interactivity causes it to be blocked by our ICT settings (no chat, etc).

I don't particularly want to work from home on this, and if I go down to Starbucks (where it isn't blocked) I would have to work on the netbook, which has a screen too small to satisfactorily experience Wave's benefits I suspect (see Comment from Chrissie in previous post).

Still, being well-informed information workers they pointed me to The Complete Guide to Google Wave: How to Use Google Wave

I can't check out these wave links from here, but you could try a UK Librarians' wave, or this maybe or perhaps this - will check out links when I get somewhere it works!

These graphics come from Dion Hincliffe's site, definitely worth a visit for some background and comment.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wave of the future?

I just received my invite to try out Google Wave, as a semi-beta tester type person. Will invite a couple of buddies that like to play with gizmos, although we have produced genuine on-line collaborative work, so this tool is more than a gimmick to us, it could really speed up our inter-continental communications about creative product.

Of course, I find it hard to consider as something which might improve communication within the library service right now, as it is blocked at work (both staff and public side of the network) as Instant Messaging, etc.

So I took the netbook down to the local Starbucks for my extra strength hit, and their BT FreeZone works fine.

Of course, a netbook screen isn't ideal for something as sprawling as Wave, which needs a big screen, I reckon, like a messy desktop. But still, I don't like to judge new things immediately.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Come Write In!

Although we have a great new library building in the centre of town, and at least two of the staff here have set out to write a novel-in-a-month, we have not managed to convince other Nano writers to use the building for a write-in.  For any librarians, managers or staff (especially those involved with children or literacy programs), or people with independent bookstores, go have a look at the support and networking page you can find from the Office of Letters and Light  (who organise the NaNoWriMo event.)

Maybe next year.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Word Clouds

I so enjoy the stuff Dave Pattern does with data and mashups, etc that I went to see what I could find to play with online.

I use 'play' in the sense of 'for work' of course! :-)

I had fun with Wordle - these are some word clouds I made, based on this blog. Possibly useful for library posters and suchlike (?) You have to Print Screen, paste into Paint, edit, etc...

Every which way cloud

And yes, you can change colours, layouts, etc - this one, for instance, is alphabetical..
Alphabetical cloud
I also tried TagCrowd, which has different parameters you can tweak, but does seem to remain alphabetical (although you can strim out common words, etc)

created at

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why not write a book?

I guess this blog does tend to sound rather dry at times - just as the image of a librarian remains rather 'dusty and old-fashioned' - but I spent my life as an enthusiastic sharer, and I have to share this with anyone who loves books.

For ten years now, thousands of people have set themselves the challenge of writing 50,000 fictional words in November.  A simple goal, really.  I didn't say easy!  Just simple to understand.

Like a marathon. Simple enough.  Run 26 miles, taking as long as you like.  Straightforward.  :-)

If this intrigues you (and the only prize is reaching the goal you set yourself) then visit NaNoWriMo (national Novel Writing Month).

Even if you don't want to write, right now, you can contribute funds towards outreach programs for young people; you can promote the event (buy the T-Shirt); spread the word.  To really feel a sense of completion, I even published my last two (using Lulu) and although I don't expect to sell any, I really enjoy the process of designing and laying out a book, commissioning covers from the fantastic Bobby Campbell, and eventually holding a real, tangible book in my hand!  Other spin-off fun came from making videos on my progress (the story so far...) and getting interviewed for NaNo radio, etc.  You will find a whole community of people meeting up for write-ins, and all sorts.

Update:  If you don't feel sure about the value of this experience, read this article at Edutopia, about the effect on schools and teachers of the Young Writers program...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blogging for Librarians

I have just returned from a brief but informative workshop with Karl Drinkwater - Resource Discovery Officer at Aberystwyth University (and E-learning Adviser for Learning Resources at JISC RSC Wales).

In "Blogging Awareness" he took us through

  • the possible uses of blogs (for individual or departmental announcements of services or news, for instance, or simply for internal collaboration and communication)
  • the available sites that offer the service of hosting free blogs
  • the pros and cons (conflicts of interest between ICT security issues and access, for instance, or corporate branding and 'the friendly face' of the staff...etc).

    Although I run several blogs (for my different 'hats') I learned some new things, and really should get to grips with RSS, for instance.
    Karl Drinkwater
    He manages this website for Aberystwyth University, but here's an example of one of his blogs, Subject Support

    Unfortunately, this blog will not be accessible from Cardiff Libraries, as ICT recently blocked all blogs hosted at Blogger in response to a request from schools, after children were (presumably) found accessing inappropriate material.

    It's just my personal opinion - as I know children need to be protected - but that seems like banning all newspapers in libraries just because The Sun has Page Three girls. Surely you just stop offering The Sun in the libraries - you don't ban The Guardian, the FT, The Independent, etc? IMHO

    One by one I am getting harmless blogs unblocked, on request, but I have no idea how many useful, interesting and informative blogs get hosted on Blogger. Thousands? Tens of thousands? Millions?

    I would prefer that individual sites which were found to be offensive got blocked, rather than these big sweeping moves. Contentious stuff, of course, but at least we had a chance to air and discuss some of these problems.

    A very enjoyable course! Thanks Karl!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Playing and Learning in a VLE

As an enthusiast, I often forget that many people haven't started playing with the internet yet.

They may shop there, or do their children's homework, or chat, or seek true love, but haven't really begun to explore how much more we (as a human tribe in a global village) could do with it. But then again, many people don't consider themselves creative.

And, yes, I realise how irritating acronyms can prove.

VLE = Virtual Learning Environment

I feel my experiments in setting up elearning options for staff don't seem to attract people yet. I blame myself, not the Moodle / Learning Pool environment. As Michel Thomas points out, the burden of 'teaching failure' should lie with the teacher, not the student...

[update 13 Oct 09] Just to add to the confusion, some people use 'DLE'= Dynamic Learning Environment. For instance, you can view a conference presentation on Learning Pool, called "LP’s DLE: A Social Media Solution for Collaborative Working Within and Across UK Local Government" here:
(although staff in Cardiff can't watch Vimeo video at the moment).

So, accidentally coming across Producer (a free add-on to Powerpoint) has motivated me to attempt something a bit more interesting - and use video, screen grabs, sounds, etc to make staff training more interesting. It'll take a while, of course...but it does look a lot like Movie Maker, so perhaps I can crack it...

Meanwhile, the search goes on for a good way to transform Powerpoint to MPEG for our plasma screens. (sigh)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ahead in the clouds

Cloud computing does seem to relate to Google Wave (and the way the Google team already works, apparently).

Centrally stored information, accessed through 'thin clients' from anywhere.

Apart from the days when the network is down, and you don't have much stored locally to play with, this does seem the way to go.

At the socitm09 annual conference you will find discussion of Cloud Computing and other interesting material...economies of scale for council ICT departments, which might depend on the use of newer interactive models, the unblocking of Social Networking for staff use, etc.

Fascinating stuff.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Social Networking ambiguity

Cardiff Council have apparently gone live with a Twitter service for citizens to get up-to-date news.

I say 'apparently' because the public can't actually look at Twitter in the public libraries, so it remains an imaginary service to me, right now. Oh wait! I can see it on the intranet, so will pass on examples as best I can, until the public get access. Sadly, links to other sites that Cardiff is 'following' (like Chapter Arts, for instance) remain blocked for now.

However, perhaps it will motivate the libraries to unblock the site for the public? Hard to tell, as Twitter by definition doesn't seem so much like something you need on your desktop, more something for mobiles...

However - watch this space for news of other social networking approaches to council (and particularly library) services.

Library Stream initiated a discussion on Twitter recently. Find them in my list of blogs in the column on the right.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wave of the future

The hot news seems to involve Google's latest wonder - a totally integrated format of real-time communication called Google Wave. The implications for education (let alone entertainment) haven't really sunk in yet, but it seems ideally suited for remote learning.

A beta gets released to guinea-pigs later this month (a lottery) but later in the year it should emerge. Check out the preview

Although I can see uses for my e-learning tutor role, I suspect that if I get a beta account in the lottery I will use it for creative and collaborative interactions first. Me and my online 'gang' or 'posse' or whatever you call a tribe these days (we all seemed to call ourselves a 'reading group' when we met up in Berlin in July - sounds almost as tame as 'librarian' - heh heh [he cackles with eldritch rising organ music in the background]) well, we, ahem intend to test it to destruction, given half a chance.

As a motley crew with skills in various arts we do stretch and pull interactive processes in all directions. Currently we have a team blog, several individual blogs, a new Drupal forum and a couple of wikis running. Wave seems to have the possibility of integrating all these things seamlessly. The mind boggles.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Useful online file conversion service

Members of the public often arrive with files in formats not compatible with the library's computers. (wps files from Works, for instance).

Sometimes I can convert the files for users, but I try not to get involved.

I just discovered Zamzar, which converts all kinds of files to other formats, documents, images, music, etc.

So long as the user has an email address to receive the converted file, it works well.

And you can't argue with FREE.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Quiet Please!

It'll be great when we no longer work in a building site (not on a building site, but in it). The new library has been surrounded by jack hammers, bulldozers, drills, lorries and plenty of shouting for some time now.

In addition, of course, we have adopted a 'modern' approach of letting people eat, talk, receive mobile phone calls, etc. Indeed, we get people coming in who seem baffled - "Where's the quiet area?"

Although I am all for libraries not being precious places designed to scare people away, I have to say that when travelling I have visited libraries, museums and art galleries the way other people visit churches, for a peaceful moment of retreat from the hustle and bustle. In fact, I guess (as a Humanist) I perceive libraries as a place where we show respect for human knowledge and achievement, as well as a place for contemplation of the big ideas.

So I do think the designers missed an opportunity when they didn't build in a quiet spot. We can't even offer Muslims a place to pray any more (they often ask for the quiet corner).

I remember when I did a hard hat visit to the British Library when it moved to St Pancras - and there was a little glassed-in room. I asked what it was for, and they said for people using those new-fangled laptop things, as the tapping of keys annoyed other users. By the time the library opened almost everyone was using laptops, and the little glass room was set aside for the pencil pushers!

Of course, as staff and users were not asked for their opinion these things seem not to have been considered.
Some kind of compromise might have been best. For instance, you could have had a mixture of
  • collaborative spaces where group conversation is allowed
  • considerate areas, where quiet exchanges should be kept to a minimum
  • quiet areas where conversation and mobile phones are forbidden.
Such arrangements can be found in some US university libraries. Why did our award-winning designer not think of these things? Far too late now that we live and work in a open-plan space where I can say something loudly on the 5th floor and be heard on the Ground Floor. Hey ho. So it goes. (Vonnegut)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Searching Questions

I do find it odd that people still treat the Internet as an unreliable resource for facts. Many library staff don't seem to trust Wikipedia, for instance.

Of course, in a market place you have to watch your purse, not buy any old thing unexamined, or get too excited by someone on a soapbox, but generally you can find what you want if you take your time.

As ever, I don't think of things in black and white. The OED and Encyclopedias may well have gone through fact-checking editors, etc , and can present relatively objective facts - but even Encyclopedias don't always agree on those 'facts'.

“Certitude belongs exclusively to those who only own one encyclopedia.” - Robert Anton Wilson

I do use these old reliable resources for simple matters of fact like the date of a king's coronation.

Bare facts, or fine detail?

For detailed research, however, the internet (taking Wikipedia as a perfect example) has compilations of detail that Encyclopedias (in their necessary compression and brevity) can't possibly compete with.

Taking an example from my own knowledge base, I checked out 'Juggling' (no entry, but found 'Juggler') in the Encyclopedia Britannica, and got a not very helpful 289 words or so, mostly about circus.

In Wikipedia you find a Juggling entry written by experts - with not only the speculative history of origins, lists of famous jugglers and their feats, but also the history of the last few decades when this obscure skill or art form became a hugely popular pastime as well as developing rapidly in both the entertainment world (skill levels have rocketed) and in the nutty, obsessive Guinness Book of Records mode. Links to animations and videos on how to learn; links to books, classes, and other deeper resources like the Internet Juggling Database (which includes lists like 'every film ever made with a juggling scene in it, or even a background character juggling).

Contribute to knowledge

Now not all those facts prove accurate (I had to correct the number of people at the first juggling convention, because I attended as one of the participants, and had first-hand knowledge). But the wiki structure means I CAN correct and tweak these facts. And yes, I gather people sometimes get territorial about certain areas of Wikipedia (much the way academics used to form a closed shop to alternative theories, while writing up their 'objective' encyclopedia entries!)

Learn to assess information

So even if some 'facts' online have got lazily copied and pasted around, have lost their source reference, or become misquoted - for inspiration justifying further search and verification it seems hard to fault the Web.

Training in assessing results, judging and estimating the value of information sources and resources, etc seem an extremely useful part of any future educational projects. Surely the combination of detective and investigative journalist could appear inviting to inquisitive children, if their exams didn't get based around finding 'the right answer' or 'the truth'.

The sooner people discover that 'hard facts' rarely prove that simple or obvious, and we all learn to hold back from jumping to conclusions or relying on just one Book or source of knowledge to the exclusion of others - and see what we know in terms of probabilities rather than certainties - the sooner we may achieve a more intelligent, tolerant, generous world. IMHO.

I thank you for listening to this rant.

[The speaker climbs down from his soapbox, picks it up and walks away].

Monday, August 10, 2009

E-Books and PDFs

As a researcher I don't have an either-or attitude to books and e-books. I love the feel and smell of tangible books, and the fact that I can read them on the bus, in the bath, in the garden. They are (in McLuhan's terms) read with Light On (bouncing off a surface) rather than Light Through.

The Virtual McLuhan on 'Light Through'
Digital McLuhan on 'Light Through'

At the same time, searching through text with even a reasonable Index and a list of Contents seem inadequate at times - when with a PDF you can search for any phrase, keyword or 'character name' you remember. Unbeatable. Just as the electronic OED lets you do complicated things like 'find all English words with Arabic origins' which you can do in mere moments...

e-book readers reviewed
Anyway - for discussion of e-readers (not something I have invested in yet) you could (for example) look at this page, from Lybrary - a site which sells e-books - comparing the different e-book readers currently available.

Adobe Digital Editions
For those of you not yet intending to invest a couple of hundred pounds in a portable reader you might find this FREE offering from Adobe interesting and useful. Digital Editions offers a way to organise your PDF e-books into libraries, shelves and annotate pages, etc.
Read about it, and Download here.

Here are a couple of quotes from that website, to give you an idea:

Interface designed for digital reading

Take advantage of a clean, well-organized interface, expressly designed for reading digital publications. Use the Reading View to view bookmarks, annotations, and a table of contents. Display your PDF files in a double-page, single page, or fit-to-width view — or specify your own custom fit. You can also increase and decrease text size with EPUB content.

File organization

Organize your digital publications and manage devices in the convenient Library View. Sort by title, author, and publisher, and view the covers of your favorite eBooks. You can also create custom bookshelves to further organize and manage your content.

And here's an interesting detail (not one our library has got involved in yet...

Borrowing eBooks

Borrow eBooks from many public libraries for use with Digital Editions. Downloading digital publications from libraries is very similar to buying eBooks online except for the payment process.

I'd love to hear from any librarians with experience of this process for information delivery.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Groups or Pages

I have started looking at Facebook in a little more depth - having originally joined purely to be able to assist users in the library (and to that end, joined under a non-de-plume, which I believe broke one of the first rules, but hey - half my friends in show-biz have stage names which they are often known by, in addition to their 'birth certificate/passport' name.  I think of it as a useless distinction.

I suspect they got vaguely worried about the MySpace tendency to invent satirical versions of Dubya and Tony Blair, (I found at least 80 God Profiles over there). Still, and all - ID theft for satirical purposes seems like a different threat from the emptying of one's bank account.  Um.  Tricky, that.

Anyway - it has led me to realize that in addition to thousands of Groups, from the serious to the trivial, you can find another level of Facebook - the Pages.

Pages can represent an individual, like Derren Brown, or an institution like Manchester Library and Information Services, who seem to have mastered the art.  Pages can acquire 'fans'.

Groups (open or closed to all except invited members) can form around silly and/or transient issues, or serious and on-going ones.  How about the paradoxical group "Let's All Leave Facebook" or a discussion group like "Libraries Using Facebook Pages"

Some discussion of the differences appear on Tim Davies's blog.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Librarians having fun - the Bookcart Drill Team

Good to see that the ALA Conference doesn't only consist of talks and presentations.

The Fifth Annual Bookcart Drill Team World Competition works to infiltrate the media - it even reached our free paper - Metro - in the UK: under the Ridiculant column

Goto Demco for a bit more detail.

Or check out the Library Journal

Way back when (the 70s) I worked in Fringe Theatre, and one of the groups (whose name escapes me for the moment) did formation wheel-barrows as part of a park show.

You can see the tradition continues with The Red Barrows. Here's the BBC story.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

keep track of your government

Although the only social networking sites currently offered to the public on Cardiff Library's People's Network computers are Facebook, MySpace and YouTube - many others could prove relevant or useful.

If you want to follow the Government - Downing Street, the Foreign Office, etc you might want to use Twitter for breaking news.

Twitter, the micro-blogging site, remains blocked at Cardiff for the time being.

According to The Press Association, the Government offers a 20pp document The Template Twitter Strategy for Government Departments. Download it here, as PDF.

You couldn't make this stuff up...Sir Humphrey must be twirling in his (virtual, fictional) grave.

U.K. government tells civil servants to use Twitter SF Business Times

The British government has told its civil servants that their departments should send messages on Twitter from twice to 10 times a day.

Twitter, the government says, “is experiencing a phenomenal adoption curve in the UK.” The service is being used by other governments and by many businesses, too.

This document describes why and how we intend to establish and manage a corporate presence on the microblogging social network,” says the British Cabinet Office’s “Twitter strategy” document, which is 20 pages long and has five appendices.

Twitter tools: Great for now, but will they last forever? Tech Republic

Check these tools, and perhaps you can Twit from your mobile, and not need the library to offer the service on their public access computers...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Content Creators

The image of hissing and shushing librarians guarding their precious books like dragons leaves out the fact that many library and information workers actually love books.

And rather than fitting into the mould of "Those who can, do, those who can't, teach" - quite a few library workers actually write books, too.

Mark Isaacs (who works in Cardiff Libraries) has recently had published Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in Cardiff and will, apparently, be signing copies at Borders soon. He previously collaborated with the prolific Francis Frith on a book called Around Penarth.

When the Cardiff Bay development was causing a scandal, the local library worker Sian Best wrote A Whim Set in Concrete: The Campaign to Stop the Cardiff Bay Barrage.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Social Networking in Libraries

I feel all too well aware how awful adults trying to 'get down with the kids' can seem - but I had some good teachers myself, and have spent some time teaching when I seemed to have some respect - so I don't want to generalize too much, too soon.

We (that's the royal 'we' meaning libraries) intend to look at social networking as part of our communications network. A lot of staff do already use (say) Facebook.

At the same time, I know a lot of people think libraries have no business intruding on young people's social spaces, like a school teacher or policeman (otherwise known as parents) at a party.

I guess the image of a library as something to do with 'school' and 'work' doesn't go away. For myself, I used to play truant and go to the library as a way of educating myself, and when poor and on the road I found libraries great places to hang out (admittedly as a loner). Now Cardiff Central Library (and some of the branches) offer free Wifi you can just bring your laptop, find a quiet corner, get a coffee from the machine, and chill out. That has a lot going for it. We don't insist you do 'sensible stuff' - or 'spend your time wisely'.The Invisibles - one of the best adult graphic novels – compare - Watchmen

We have as much entertainment available (graphic novels, music, film and art books, biographies of celebrities, etc) as educational. We have a wide range of magazines and stuff to browse (and unlike the newsagent we don't gruffly ask "are you going to buy that, or what?")

So I hope this blog contributes to humanizing the local library...just a little...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Grassroots and Sprouts and young people's information resources

We are in a training session, looking at a website for local young people... The Sprout

The libraries are listed in Information Providers

I remember coming across another local listing site - My Village - there's a lot of it about, but keeping information up-to-date and interesting remains a challenge.

Maybe relevant?

Today's post from the Effing Librarian:

As I passed the computer area, two teen girls shared this conversation (verbatim, to the best of my memory):

Are you on MySpace?
Yeah. I think so.
How did you get there?
I don't know.
How are you spelling it?
I don't know!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

MyFace and SpaceBook

We are slowly moving into the 21st Century - as Cardiff Council has begun implementing the use of Learning Pool (the public sector e-learning exchange) to roll out e-learning as an economic and efficient plan for increasing staff skills (never entirely replacing face-to-face learning, of course, more of a supplement).

We are even considering using Social Networking to promote library use, or raise the service's profile or whatever - so if anyone has experience of this, or relevant tips to adding an organisation, or forming an interest group, etc, please do add notes in the Comments section.

Learning Pool also has a forum where these kind of issues get discussed. e.g. Access Denied - where people mention the fact that Council workers often cannot access these very useful tools - for a variety of reasons (from security issues, to perhaps not trusting that staff won't 'waste time' using them).

They can 'waste time' networking and gossiping on the phone, or round the water cooler, instead. :-)

The Learning Pool blog has some interesting discussion of just this topic:
The end of that discussion points to 50 Barriers to Open Government, a Wiki for discussion of Social Strategies - from Tim Davies at Practical Participation

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Glass Cage

The library contains all kinds of things aside from books.  We have a white grand piano (with headphones) that people can play on - and I have just been experimenting with Sibelius software.

The piece I made (as a test) has the randomness of a John Cage bit - the notes were the equivalent of typing like this oioadfjo3u50w]r0wewe r0r [ew - but it sounds amusing to me.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The library that never closes

Thanks to my partner for this link to an article in the Guardian.

I don't intend to join the discussion about paper books over ebooks right now (I use both for different purposes, and when researching like to have both - a paper copy for the bus or bath, foxed corners and pencil notes, and a PDF for searching quickly).

The Open Library.

And although I don't perform any more, I still love magic (my childhood hobby, part of my mid-life performing career, and now my equivalent to The Times Crossword, for mental stimulation) - so some people might find the attempt to digitalize all available (out of copyright) magic books interesting as a project.

Check out Chris Wasshuber's extraordinary Lybrary website, for books on magic, gambling, gaming, confidence tricks, etc.  Coming up to a tenth anniversary...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Digital Textbook Initiative

After a slighting reference to 'Arnold' on Have I Got News For You, about the simple economic savings implicit in not giving children hard copies of non-fiction text books, it feels difficult to come out on the side of digital learning.

Terminating Education on elearning 3.0 blog found at elearninglearning (sic)

Full speech at Office of the Guv'ner

Actually, I still believe in the mixed economy.  Certainly for novels and poetry, I prefer having a copy I can carry around.

The argument for up-to-date information seem irrefutable, however - as digital copies remain available for all students, when limited copies soon leave the shelves, and either stay out for months, or never come back. And they also go out of date quickly, whether books on law, medicine, economics, etc.

I think it a rather extreme position to eliminate books altogether, as though all information goes out of date quickly.  We don't just study History (where new revelations, attitudes and approaches might appear) but also how people viewed it at certain times (some classics remain important for study, even if 'period pieces' in some ways.)  The idea that all information goes out of date comes from a rather superficial view that we in the present know more, and more accurately, than people in the past.  I do think completely deleting the past a rather dangerous approach, myself.  Just think how hard it can prove, to find an out-of-print, out-of fashion  masterpiece.

This remains a heated argument within libraries, as some of us think we should appear as up-to-date, clean and modern as Borders or Waterstones - just free, is all.  Others think we should represent an alternative to best sellers and a limited choice on display, and include an archive of 'out-of-date' material and hard to find items, rather than just the latest compilation summary of past knowledge, Dummies' Guides, etc. 

Of course, bookshops and libraries can both order you copies of books they don't have, to arrive later, whether to borrow or to buy.

As it happens, as I try to use e-learning options within the libraries, for staff training - I don't feel sure either way.  I don't get a great response from my initial efforts to make knowledge available digitally, but then again we work in a library, and I am not sure how many staff spend any time with the 'How To Use a Computer' books that we have, either.  Some people spend their time learning, and others don't - so motivation seems as important as access to tools.

No, I didn't reach a conclusion...

I have studied online for the last few years, and when working through a text my favourite option remains having a paper copy for reading on the bus and in the bath, and a PDF copy for searching, cutting and pasting etc.

I don't really believe in Either / Or.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Call yourself a librarian?

Well, actually I don't (the title of the blog is a joke aimed at friends).

The word 'librarian' remains reserved for people who got a degree. I didn't. Not only didn't I get a degree in Library and Information Science, I didn't get a degree at all. I dropped out to become an auto-didact (what self-taught people call themselves to sound clever).

I work as a 'senior library assistant' (Corporal, to you).


Still, I always throw myself into whatever job comes to hand, so I thought some of you might find this LIS publications wiki interesting. Use the sandbox, to practice using a wiki...

Welcome to the Library and Information Science (LIS) Publications wiki. This wiki gathers information about publications that LIS professionals might want to write for -- whether they want to reach their colleagues or their communities. All editors, publishers, and LIS professionals are welcome to contribute to the publication profiles. To participate, just create a free account and log in.

The Truth is Out (there, I said it) - Libraries gave us power

Apparently people actually do read blogs. Well, well.

As you can tell, I belong to the group of people who think 'information wants to be free' - even if that does carry its own risks and dangers.

I grew up in the censored generation (I'm old), and I can assure you that felt even worse. OK, so perhaps the slackening of control meant that our tv screens got filled with swear words and quasi-porn, etc, and now you can read William Burroughs, Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence, etc - but people grow out of that 'secret thrill' eventually. We are talking 'the lesser of two evils' here - I don't pretend that completely open and freely available information will ever arrive. And, of course, we do have the privacy aspect to consider. When censorship went we also got satire - previously you couldn't criticize religion, the royal family, politicians, etc. Now that we know more about them (and their expenses) I think it's a good idea. IMHO. And it seems an excellent idea that we can actually say what we think out loud (Have I Got News For You), allegedly.

But still, I work in a library, and we hope to provide information without bias for all and ordinary people. You need to be able to look up the history of Nazism, unpleasant though it is. You have to be able to read Mein Kampf, too. Our job isn't to filter stuff (as I see it, and it's only a personal opinion) or to over-protect people.

Religious parents may object that children can borrow books on atheism and anarchy, but I could object to the amount of shelving dedicated to religion - as opposed to Free Thought. I like the idea of a library as a level playing field for information.

The Secret Is Out

Let me not rant, though. The male voice choir's voice is ringing through the libraries, the mayor and entourage have arrived, the Manics (yup it was them, as I originally posted, before being told it was supposed to be a secret, which made me go edit the post and confuse the fan forums) will no doubt cut that ribbon, unveil their plaque and everyone can go home.

And using the speed of online media, you can see proof that the Manics really were at Cardiff Central library today - my photo shows them on the 3rd floor, looking down on the Press on the 1st floor (the Children's Dept). You'll see better quality pictures in the papers, later...

The staff will carry on serving the public as they have for 3 months now (we are open until 19:00 on a Thursday) and all's right with the world.

Library 2.0

Oh, and because I don't like anonymity (it goes with censorship) I guess most people who work around here now know (or can find out) who posts this blog. The blog arose from a growing awareness of an online culture of (some but not all) library staff around the world who think we should use modern media tools, as a complement to the traditional library - an approach called - in shorthand - Library 2.0. (Like Web 2.0, etc).

Oh look! Swansea library have joined Twitter! See their Paige Turner blog. Of course, Twitter is currently blocked at our library, but everything does change slowly...and eventually.

So - learning by doing - I continue to try to demonstrate what we could be using these tools for, including ephemeralizing the library (so you don't actually have to visit a building, even a state-of-the-art one). I haven't been inside a bank building for months. I do it all online, pay my taxes, renew my books, check my accounts.

Don't you? You could, you know!

Did I mention the library has free WiFi access, so you don't have to depend on the Council network, or use Council PCs, just bring your laptop, and do all your work on your own machine.

And if you prefer to work from home here's the Library Catalogue, which also offers access (from anywhere) to our free e-reference material, and your account, if you are a member.

All you have to do is join!
You can see a nice slide show of images of the Opening Ceremony here. Funny that they chose the opening line for the plaque though...when they had this choice, from Design For Life:

Libraries gave us power
Then work came and made us free
But what price now for a shallow piece of dignity

I wish I had a bottle
Right here in my dirty face to wear the scars
To show from where I came

We don’t talk about love we only want to get drunk
And we are not allowed to spend
As we are told that this is the end

And here's the BBC's version of the story.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

And talking of scare stories and rumours...

Many of the staff (who sadly have ten year old PCs) and even the public (working on nice new ones) have complained about the speed of the internet (at times) since we moved into the new building.

Given that both old and new PCs suffer from it, we all assume it is the network.  Not many of us know very much about networks (if I ring Virgin about bad service at home they start talking about 'load-balancing' and other esoterica). Then they stop taking my calls (but they don't stop taking my money).

Since a Cardiff school (with a quite specific problem, I might add) got into the local papers speculating that it was the adoption of Kaspersky anti-virus software which had caused problems with their new IT Suite - staff have generalized from that to blame K for the performance here, too.

It seems possible, of course, but I don't speculate beyond the data.  ICT deny that K has caused performance issues for libraries, and I accept their current assessment.

School blames K    23 May 09   South Wales Echo

K denies liability    28 May 09  South Wales Echo

Of course, it doesn't answer the question as to what DOES cause the problem, and even more importantly, HOW CAN WE MAKE IT GO AWAY?

It appears to be something to do with the infrastructure from which the Council purchases its services, and outside of ICT's sphere of influence...we'll just have to wait and see.
The internet is falling apart, maybe?
Back to the books, people!

Make a Noise in the Library

We will be having a 'grand opening' on June 18th - with 'mystery guest stars'. (I have been discouraged from actually naming them).  In the modern world, the only usual reason for not naming your 'celebrity guest star' is because most people may not have actually heard of the latest drop-out from Big Brother or a person who came second in a talent contest - better to use the buzz words - 'famous' 'celebrity'  'star'.

As it happens, you probably have heard of this band, even if you couldn't necessarily name one of their songs, and they won't be playing - just showing their faces, and maybe cutting a ribbon, but hey.

And I could have sworn we had been open to the public for months now, but I am a mere public servant (touchs forelock)... not invited to the 'drinkies'...    :-)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Teaching Copyright

The EFF has launched a new initiative - Teaching Copyright - a curriculum and website designed to counteract the 'scare story' approach to students wishing to copy material.

After I have browsed through the curriculum I will come back to add a little more.

EFF = Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It's just a matter of time...

Fun though it is to be working in a modern 'state-of-the-art' library in a city, I must admit I prefer the idea of the ephemeral library - distributed - so I could do remote training from somewhere beautiful in the country, like Ty Cariad.

I did a Net Trainer course (designing and using remote learning modules) last year and have a certificate to prove it!.  As practice I have put up a beta site for library 2.0 staff to use...(using Learning Pool (a public sector shared resource), which in turn employs Moodle architecture).

I can already use webmail to keep track of staff and public enquiries, and use NetLoan remotely, servicing the 19 Cardiff Libraries, supporting internet bookings and so on.

It does seem as though only a little of my work warrants getting dressed, leaving the house, and walking 20 minutes up the road to work in a building.

The catalogue is online, with all Cardiff's e-resources...   All you need is a membership number and PIN.

Here's some of the stuff we already offer online.

And so on.

A man can dream...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

And talking of 'books'...

I heard rumours last year about a revolutionary Print-On-Demand machine that Blackwell's were intending to trial - so that their bookshops could offer a much bigger range of out-of-print or out-of-copyright books.

I can see this as an interesting supplement to libraries in the future (?)

Anyway - after appearing at The London Book Fair, the service now got launched - see The Guardian article.

Revolutionary Espresso Book Machine launches in London

Launching in London today, the Espresso Book Machine can print any of 500,000 titles while you wait

The whole approach to paper seems a good idea - just look at the selective PDF versions of the news and topical subjects that The Guardian offers as downloads you could print for yourself. See Guardian 24.

Bob Young - Lulu founder - with his unsold books
And, of course, I should mention the P.O.D. self-publishing market - most famously Lulu, but there are many others (Amazon apparently insists that if you want your book listed with them you have to use their Booksurge product). Why print books that will only get pulped? That doesn't mean we get rid of books and paper completely, just be a bit more selective and frugal about printing out...

I have been experimenting with Lulu

  • to understand the process
  • to make hard copies (or free downloads as PDFs) available of my experiments in high-speed writing - with the NaNoWriMo challenge to write a book in a month
  • to offer copies of any other material I find interesting (family and friends' unpublished works).
  • See my Lulu store front, here - not vanity, just 'learning by doing'.

Fast Complex Interchange

And as you can make single copies, or short runs, you might find more innovative uses for Lulu - like this guy who wanted to compile some online articles (reading on a screen can be tiring) so made up a simple paper book for himself. His original post with more detail.Things I Would Rather Read on Paper

And the article which inspired him - Instapaper - Analogue Edition by Emmet Connolly

Instapaper - saving interesting online articles to read later.

The Self Publishing Review on creating your own self-publishing imprint...

You Write On A.C.E. initiative.

MidLife Writer blog

Sunday, April 19, 2009

B.O.O.K. Technology & P.E.N.C.I.L.s

This just turned up in an old file. I thought it came from Anon, but the Warrior Librarian gives this attribution (if so, that was when I was still in school - pretty anticipatory!):

Heathorn. R.J. (1962). Punch Magazine, May 9, 1962. Circulated through bulk emails, 2000, 2001.

Breakthrough in Educational Technology

New Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge Device

BOOK is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology; no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It's so easy to use, even a child can operate it. Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere - even sitting in an armchair by the fire - yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc.

Here's how it works:

BOOK is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of paper (recyclable), each capable of holding thousands of bits of information. The pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binder which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence. Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs. Experts are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density; for now, BOOKS with more information simply use more pages. Each sheet is scanned optically, registering information directly into your brain. A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet. BOOK never crashes or requires rebooting, though, like other devices, it can become damaged if coffee is spilled on it and it becomes unusable if dropped too many times on a hard surface, but it is far more durable than all personal computers on the market. The "browse" feature allows you to move instantly to any sheet, and move forward or backward as you wish. Many come with an "index" feature, which pin-points the exact location of any selected information for instant retrieval.

An optional "Bookmark" accessory allows you to open BOOK to the exact place you left it in a previous session - even if the BOOK has been closed. Bookmarks fit universal design standards; thus, a single Bookmark can be used in BOOKs by various manufacturers. Conversely, numerous BOOK markers can be used in a single BOOK if the user wants to store numerous views at once. The number is limited only by the number of pages in the BOOK.

You can also make personal notes next to BOOK text entries with optional programming tools, Portable Erasable Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Stylii (PENCILS).

Portable, durable, and affordable, BOOK is being hailed as a precursor of a new entertainment wave. BOOK's appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform and investors are reportedly flocking to invest. Look for a flood of new titles soon.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Free Thinkers Accept the Mystery

Actually, I intended to use FreeThinker in the technical sense - of 'atheists' who don't like defining themselves with a negative term.

I don't think of 'God' as a default setting, which I have to deny. (a-theist).

My default setting remains an experience of a mysterious environment - which contains and includes me (a mysterious point of consciousness). I expect 'believers' to have to convince me that someone or something 'created' this mystery.

I don't have an answer, as I find equally acceptable the idea(s) that it always existed, doesn't exist, could be defined as 'my dream' (solipsism), etc.

Libraries remained my allies in holding out for a variety of explanations, when surrounded by a culture (if not a people) with a default setting of 'God'.

At least Cardiff Libraries provide copies of The Freethinker*

I just got an email alert about this piece from

Get Atheist Books in the Public Library
Get Public Libraries to Provide Atheist, Freethought, Secular Literature
by Austin Cline

"Why Are Public Libraries Important?

[...]Getting enough atheist, freethought, skeptical, secular, and humanist material in libraries is important because not everyone can obtain this material on their own. Some people don't have enough money to buy the books and magazines and few have enough money to buy all the books and magazines. Libraries can carry a broader array of material than bookstores as well as a deeper selection of older material - including material no longer in print. Where else will you find magazines and journals from several years ago?[...]"

*The Freethinker was founded in 1881 by GW Foote, an outspoken critic of religion. After the publication of irreligious cartoons in the 1882 Christmas edition, Foote was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to 12 months hard labour. Despite this setback the magazine has remained in print ever since. You can read more here.

If I had the time to travel...

Fortunately, a lot of conferences attempt to become more accessible over time - and Web 2.0 meetings (almost by definition) offer alternative media and transparency, and access.

I just came across Douglas Rushkoff's keynote speech from San Francisco, at Web 2.0 Expo, a coupla weeks ago.

“How the Web Ate the Economy and Why it’s Great for Everyone.”

Find it on his MediaSquat site (worth 18 minutes of anyone's time...)
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