Sunday, 26 December 2010


On Wednesday 29 December it will be thirty years since the onset of my imposition-writing phase.

I had been working three months as a library assistant in the Inter-Library Loans office at the University of Sussex. I have forgotten most of the gaffes I made during that time, and cannot say which of them triggered the imposition. Perhaps it was the cumulative effect of gaffes made in the whole length of the autumn. But on 29 December 1980, having been presented for Christmas with an erasable ballpoint pen, and knowing therefore that I could minimise the waste of paper involved, I set myself the task of writing out, one hundred times:

I must not show off in the Library.

It cannot be said to have worked. I have memories of gaffes that resulted from showing off in Sussex University Library, and even in adjacent libraries, in the spring of 1981. Indeed, the imposition story itself came in time to be a sort of calling card. And the practice of writing impositions began to be habitual. In general they were a hundred lines long, but my most ambitious effort in this genre was five hundred lines, after missing a plane, on the subject of punctuality.

The phase ended as abruptly as it had begun. In 1987, I was involved in 'Walk for the World', an awareness-raising event run by the World Development Movement and, I think, fifteen other agencies. This involved a lot of local media work, and letters to celebrities, and co-ordination of walkers. After it was over, it seemed to me that some action was necessary if I was to come back down to a realistic view of my importance relative to the rest of Cambridge. An imposition seemed to be the very thing; and a text suggested itself:

I must avoid paranoid behaviour at all times.

I found some paper, and a pen, and settled down to write the above sentence, with 99 repetitions:

I must avoid paranoid behaviour at all times.
I must avoid paranoid behaviour at all times.
I must avoid paranoid behaviour at all times.
I must avoid paranoid behaviour at all times.
I must avoid paranoid behaviour at all times.
I must avoid paranoid behaviour at all times.
I must avo

-- at which point, quite unexpectedly, I found the situation so comical that I couldn't hold the pen, and had to admit that I had kicked the imposition habit.

I would like to mark its 30th anniversary in some way. I have toyed with the idea of using it as a fundraising opportunity, perhaps with a sponsored imposition (asking friends to pledge so much line) or a sponsored anti-imposition (pledging to tweet the text of an imposition one hundred times less the number of sponsorships received, so that 33 sponsors wd lead to the text's being tweeted 67 times). But I have not got my act together as regards a fundraising pitch, and so any donations made on 29 December will have to be wholly unconnected with this eccentricity remembered from my twenties. Maybe it's a project to consider for the 25th anniversary of the end of the phase, in June/July 2012.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Christmas cards

Clare & I have just dispatched our first round of Christmas cards for the year.

We send our Christmas cards in three rounds:
  1. those that are hand-written on real card (early December)
  2. electronic cards in response to cards received
  3. electronic cards to people on our card list we've not yet heard from (final week or so before Christmas)
The emphasis on electronic cards is not an accident. They help resolve what we once felt as a dilemma, between the individual hand-written card and the round-robin. The hand-written card lets you adapt what you're writing, so it personally fits the people you're writing to; but it's very labour-intensive, and it risks being illegible. On the other hand, the printed round-robin, easy to produce in numbers and with a clear typeface, can lead to big squirmaceousnesses. Simon Hoggart has wittily demonstrated the pitfalls more than once.

The electronic card can be read without difficulty; its text can be copied and pasted from card to card, with far less labour than in wielding a pen; and it can be totally adapted to suit the individual it's addressed to. So it gets our vote, and we hope the recipients feel the same. We generally use, but there are plenty of other sites offering this service.

Not all of our friends and kin are wired, and some have stated a preference for cards hand-written on real card. They represent a sizeable minority, just over a quarter of our card list, and theirs, as you see, are the cards we send first.

I'm not quite sure how long we've been following this system, and its development hasn't left the trace in old diaries that I thought it might. Probably we decided we were going to adopt it after Christmas 2002. In our single days our card practices were widely dissimilar. Clare used to send cards to pretty well everyone in her address book; I used to send cards only in response to those I received. I liked to say, of those I got and answered after Christmas and into January, that they were spreading one of the most enjoyable aspects of Christmas into the part of the year that most needed it. I reckoned, being an obsessive correspondent in those days, that people I didn't write to at Christmas would probably get something from me later on.

The main drawback to Christmas e-cards is this. Whilst our labour-saving approach to Christmas cards is to send them electronically, our labour-saving approach to Christmas decoration is to put up nothing more than our incoming Christmas cards. Sooner or later, as our friends and kin catch on to the benefits of Christmas e-cards, there's going to come a Christmas where we don't get any cards suitable for putting up. Printed-out sheets of A4 will probably not make a good substitute.

Have to work on that one. Any ideas?

Saturday, 13 November 2010


I have a work in progress on the Haddon Library's blog. It's a page for the products of the writing workshop that was the library's contribution to Cambridge University's Festival of Ideas.

That workshop was a collaboration with the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Workshop leader Sue Butler asked participants to write imaginatively in response to books from the Haddon and objects from the Museum.

As of this posting, the blog is a lot thinner than the work Sue led us to. But here's something I prepared earlier that goes with the subject of museums. Written 2002, published in St Matthew's parish magazine Streetwise in 2005.

Simple procedure you may use
if you are minded to reduce,
when looking at another age,
the psychic risks of heritage:
nostalgic thoughts are well cured when
you know the way things were back then
is more than half the way that they
took to the way they are today.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

A typology of river poems

For National Poetry Day, here's one I penned in late 1999. It won a prize in the 2008 Sefton writing competition.


Downstream, or riverside: Oxus forgetting
the bright speed it had, the edges not now close
or fresh, but flat as Sohrab’s sand, embankments,
workaday wharves. The high adventure’s gone,
or aching with the sense of what has gone.

Upstream: the source, but there’s not much to see.
The backward quest’s unlearning comes to this:
near fields, and baffled which of two or three
almost-remembered streams the true source is.

Across the river: trusting that he went
into it with Where is thy sting? and going
deeper, said, Grave, where is thy victory?
and thus passed over, and the trumpets sounded
for him the other side, we can describe it so.
But the crowd flowing over London Bridge –
“I had not thought death had undone so many”?
To say nothing of being very sorry to say
that ninety lives have been taken away
on the last Sabbath day of 1879,
which will be remembered for a very long time.

The litany of river names: there’s power
in lists. The list of two that has for third
and fourth Er… and That’s it stands like a tower
aborted, but the list of three’s a cord
not lightly broken, and the list of four
drives the point home and hammers it some more,
and if you list upwards of five or six –
Ursula Fanthorpe’s lines that end in Styx –
you’ve got it made, and if for want of heaven
you list the cloudburst-sobbing streams of Devon,
the Tamar under fifty miles of drumming,
the salmon lit, again lit, with rain coming,
no one, it’s true, is guaranteed to weep,
but I saw one man’s eyes begin to steep.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Music by Arvo Pärt

The Estonian composer Arvo Pärt celebrates his 75th birthday on 11 September 2010. Allow me to blog a poem that I wrote in 1987, attempting to convey some impression of his work, or of one of his works. The poem appeared in the magazine Streetwise, from St Matthew's church, Cambridge.

Music by Arvo Pärt

The bell rhymes are dole, toll, soul, and the like.
Dole as the old word, sorrow, is all
binding the tones of such a toll.
Soul of live grief, poured through suspensions,
fall under fall, fall under fall,
sings deeper in the weeping strings
to hold a consonance made whole,
and bell tolls still

Monday, 9 August 2010

Thing 23: Final thoughts

Which Things did you find most useful, or thought-provoking?

I had better admit, here at the end of 23things, that my personal Web 2.0 use pattern is not markedly different from what it was at the beginning. My most useful things are still the ones I was finding indispensable already: Doodle, Google Docs, Google Calendar.

I have begun to see a bit more of the point to RSS feeds, and to use Google Reader in a big way. I suppose RSS feeds and Google Reader may be said to fill each other's gaps.

The most thought-provoking things will have been Twitter, Google Reader and Marketing.

In the case of Twitter, I found myself defending my enthusiasm for that resource in the face of other participants' deep aversion to the same thing, though we ended by agreeing to differ.

Google Reader was thought-provoking, not so much in itself, as by serving as the medium for all the other cam23 blogs. I didn't devote a post to it.

Marketing asked for thought explicitly: the question posed by the instructions, "Blog about how you feel about the marketing opportunities that social media now offers and specifically about one tool or strategy you are going to adopt to promote your service as a result of your participation in Cam23", was in essence an invitation to think.

Which didn't you find useful at all?

LinkedIn is the one I saw no need to create an account for. Zotero is the one that put up the most resistance to being used, and my need for it has not so far been strong enough to overcome that resistance.

Which have you persisted with?

The trick that scores highest for both newness and persistability -- i.e. I wasn't doing it at all before, and am doing from time to time now -- is the embedding of screenshots and other images. But I'm not much given to using pictures anywhere, and I don't think cam23 has changed that.

What about Web 2.0 and social media? How do you think they are shaping library services?

I can mention some visible trends, like the help that social media give to communication, both within library staff and between staff and users, and the hope that these are making libraries more responsive to users' needs.

Social media and libraries are a research question, that one could spend three years answering. Arcadia showcases some of the investigations that have been going on into small parts of the question. Any attempt I may make to answer it is going to read a bit like the 5-word essay in Willy Russell's Educating Rita, on the difficulties of staging Peer Gynt: "Do it on the radio."

And how theatre and radio have shaped each other.

Thing 22: Wikis

I admit that my own use of wikis has, so far, been very limited. Wikipedia is often my first port of call for factual information, even with all the caveats that need to be borne in mind there. My tiny contributions to that resource are enumerated in an earlier post.

And I have signed up for TeachMeet in the prescribed wiki way.

I sent an email round the Haddon team, earlier in the year, that said, in different words, "We'll get up a wiki when I've done 23things, you see if we don't." What I had in mind at that time was a replacement for emails in the description of tasks. Emails for that purpose have a way of drawing queries, which then need answers in the form of clarifications, which, to avoid a need for cross-reference between emails, means revised re-sending of the original emails.

A library application that immediately suggests itself is the planning of events. I was struck by the similarity between the holiday-planning wiki of Wikis in plain English and the emails that fly round the Haddon team in the run-up to, for instance, an Alumni Weekend presentation. A wiki serves in a situation where people are in broad agreement about the task to be accomplished, and are in discussion about means. A wiki about what was to be accomplished, and why, would presumably be harder to manage, though Wikipedia's continuing usefulness amid endless contentions is a demonstration of what is possible in that line.

Having, therefore, an application in mind already, I have put off the task of exploring all the wikis listed in the Library Success Wiki, LibraryWikis, and Anna Laura Brown's Wikis for Libraries site. For the moment, it is enough that wikis offer great improvements in method for what we are doing already. There's a limit to how much new I can do at a time....

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Thing 21: podcasting and YouTube

What did you think of the library podcasts you listened to/viewed? Might you start subscribing to podcasts or consider podcasting yourself? Or alternatively have you got an idea for a library video to go on YouTube? What do you think about using the audio-visual medium to reach library users? Optional extra: Creating your own podcast

My best answer to any of those questions lies at the intersection of all of them. Having watched the library videos, and having, from time to time, fantasised about doing something similar, I explored the possibilities of the webcam I use for Skype, and found that the Logitech software's help pages were in the form of animated slide sequences. I feared that that instructions for use taken by that medium might be hard to remember, but it turned out not to be so. I watched the slideshow to the end, followed its instructions around the icons and buttons, and filmed myself singing 'I must not show off in the library'. That video will never go up on YouTube, but its shortcomings do not reflect on the instructions from Logitech.

So how do the library videos and podcasts (hereinafter LVPs) compare with the Logitech instruction slideshow?

It's not a strict comparison of like with like, because the LVPs serve a slightly different function. Their aim is to convey an impression, or inculcate an attitude, rather than guide the viewer through a precise sequence of actions. Success for the LVPs is thus not only harder to achieve but harder to measure. What information about classification does the audience take away from Romance of the living book? How is the audience affected by the difficulty of skimming, and of copying and pasting, in videos and podcasts compared to text-based documents? What is done to the message by ironic touches like the twist at the end of A plagiarism adventure or the wholly parodic content of Harper College's Tour the library? (Irony is the blind spot in my own sense of humour.) Have the LVPs, like songs, a value independent of the message driving them? And can the success of the LVPs, however measured, be held up to the more obviously measurable costs, in time, money and materials, of their making?

Further research needed. The short, provisional answer is that library videos get made by librarians with a passion for making videos, who may or may not be all the more pleased to be exercising this at work. But I'm glad that llordllama gets a mention. His prolific video output is sometimes to do with his day job as Document Supply and Repository Manager at Leicester University, and sometimes not.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Thing 20: Google Documents

Google Docs is another of those applications that have established themselves as almost indispensable. Flawed but almost indispensable. And only almost indispensable.

Let's take those qualities in turn.

The near indispensability

Google Docs fits any situation where documents need to be accessed by more than one user, or from more than one computer. I have found it of more value, so far, within the family than at work. Notable successes are:
  • a log where progress on certain shared concerns can be recorded by all involved
  • a spreadsheet for names and contact details of people to whom we send Christmas cards, updatable as readily from the computers of Christmas hosts as at home, with no problem arising from divergence of versions
  • spreadsheets showing birthday & Christmas presents given, enabling us to track their progress from bright idea through purchase and dispatch to presentation, and likewise updatable with no risk of divergent versions
The flaws

Google Docs can be unpredictable. One of the documents named above has been known to revert without warning to a previous version. That's very rare, but the fact that it happens at all vitiates the main selling point. Commands can be a bit wayward: in preparing a document (see screenshot) earlier today, by way of cam23 homework, I found awkward periods where neither mouse nor keyboard would let me scroll to the right. Google spreadsheets appear to offer no function for copying and pasting additional material into a cell: pasting, so far as I can tell, has to be done over the cell's current contents. An attempt, at work, to share a document with members of the Library Committee met with complaints that they had been unable to access it, for reasons that were undiscernible to me. Google Docs is sometimes choosy about formats, without warning: the spreadsheet you see above, originally created in Open Office Calculator, had to be saved as .xls before Google would upload it without unexplained server errors and requests to wait.

(Following the instructions, I uploaded it for sharing with a colleague. Sarah Humbert is responsible for the turquoise.)

The distance from indispensability

Google Docs is dispensable because it is not unique. There's Ulteo , which I used before I knew of Google Docs, and which does something similar, albeit with more difficulty and with a need for paid susbcription. There's Zoho, which Kirsty's instructions point us to; I looked at it, said "Wow" and did not explore further, but took note of its existence in case Google should ever disappear. And there's the data-stick. Yes, the data-stick goes with copies and multiplying versions, and is part of the problem that Google Docs exists to solve. But that's not to say that we couldn't go back to the data-stick if Google Docs showed itself unusable.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Thing 19: Marketing

Or, in another word, everything. As Andy puts it in his instructions, marketing is "about how we position ourselves and what we do for our customers". That reminds me of the recent brown-bag lunch around Emma Woods' suggestions for how subject librarians could raise their profile. One of the comments, over the baguettes and fruit, was that these techniques for raising the subject librarian's profile were essentially techniques for being a good subject librarian. The steps, presented by Lori Reed, for devising a library marketing plan look almost like those for devising a wholesale library strategy. One imagines them as grist for several stakeholder meetings, rather than a single blog post.

Mercifully, the brief for this assignment pulls back from such an undertaking -- asks us to write "specifically about one tool or strategy you are going to adopt to promote your service". Mine would be Doodle, or some more elaborate surveying tool such as SurveyMonkey. They were not Cam23 discoveries for me -- SurveyMonkey surveys have informed discussions about Haddon Library funding and plans for a makeover -- but Cam23 has confirmed and enriched my view of them.

Finding out where people are, metaphorically speaking, and what they need, is not something that happens by magic. Assuming or pretending that one is of their company is an approach that has a way of turning squirmaceous. Survey tools enable one to ask the questions straight out.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Thing 18: Zotero

I used Zotero in 2008 for the Haddon Library's Alumni Weekend presentation about the maverick anthropologist William Blandowski. My hope was that Zotero would be a kind of cross between LibraryThing and Delicious, enabling me to access the material from anywhere. In 2008, the discovery that I had to download Zotero machine by machine, and could use it only with Firefox, was enough to deter me from exploring it further, and I didn't use it for the next presentation we laid on.

Two years on, returning to Zotero as an exercise for 23things, I'm interested, on the one hand, to read how The Passion and the Fury chose Zotero over Delicious for precisely the reasons that led me to the opposite choice; and, on the other hand, to read of Zotero File Storage ("a cloud-based storage solution for PDFs, images, web snapshots, and any other files"), which sounds like what I was looking for in 2008. I have downloaded the citation plugin, with mixed success. The attempt to do so for Open Office Writer, my preferred word-processor, led to a cycle of error messages and restarts for both Open Office and Firefox. Explanations and advice will be welcome! I succeeded in installing the plugin for Word 2007, but I don't much use Word 2007, and I'd prefer not to have to reopen documents in it simply for the purpose of using Zotero.

I will think about adding Zotero to Firefox in the Haddon's public computers. I have, if not exactly recommended it, then emailed a colleague in the following terms:

"The full menu for the 23things course is at . You will see that the referencing tools Zotero and Mendeley, which I've not used much but which seem to touch on the needs you mentioned yesterday, are up for next week!"

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Thing 17: LinkedIn

Sarah's instructions wisely gauge the likelihood of account fatigue at this stage of the game. But I can report having looked at the prescribed LinkedIn profiles, and also at Phil Bradley's, what I could see of it without an account of my own, and at the two that wife Clare has got up at various times. Only two; one of those in the screenshot is for another lady altogether.

Clare's experience of LinkedIn is that of one pursuing a portfolio career in science. She holds down two part-time lectureships and engages in much science journalism. She has noticed this difference between the Twitter and LinkedIn communities, that the scientists (mainly biotechnologists) tend to favour LinkedIn while the journalists tend to favour Twitter.

I don't know if there's any significance in that. But it is probably symptomatic of the fact that LinkedIn fits some communities better than others. Andy's (of all people's) lack of enthusiasm for this business resource has much to do with the fact that "LinkedIn isn’t really being pitched at someone like me". I have a similar sense of it, and, with my account fatigue, I don't see a compelling reason for joining. Not just yet, anyway.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Thing 16: Facebook

I have been using Facebook since early 2008, have read several people's articles about it and logged them, with view to MCLIP revalidation, and have, for 23things, added the COPAC widget to my Facebook page. I made a guarded attempt to use Facebook as a blog in the autumn of 2009, but I have never had the same enthusiasm for it that I have for some other Web 2 applications.

Reasons include the site's terminology that makes 'friends', or not, of people whose relationship could be better described in other ways, the invitations to games offering minimal interest in return for account details, the sense that Facebook brings together play versions of lots of things that thrive better in a full-size version elsewhere. Facebook does photos, but without Flickr's ready searchability from outside and innovative approach to rights. Facebook notes are like a blog, but with a smaller typeface than Blogger. So far as I can see, anyway. I have done what I can to confirm this general perception by uploading a few photos; you will obviously be in your rights to correct me if you know better.

I don't hate Facebook with the level of aversion that Miss Crail reserved for Twitter. But, in pursuit of 23things, I find that Facebook is for me neither a new thing to explore, nor a hobby that I'm eager to expound.

Hence I am not drawn to getting up a library Facebook page in addition to the library blog. Ready though I am to see that others have made a go of it....

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Things 14 & 15: LibraryThing

I have been using Librarything in earnest since the spring of 2009. Part of the stimulus was when Clare & I joined the CamLETS local exchange token system, and had the idea that one of the services we might offer was the loan of music scores. I have listed all our individual scores, and a few of the anthologies. A random selection from that catalogue is now embedded as a widget in this Blurtmetry blog.

My long-term intention is to catalogue the rest of the music anthologies, and the poetry books and magazines.

As in more than one other case, I have found that 23things has rekindled my interest and led me to explore the resource further. I am delighted, in going through Librarything, to find the reviews that Librarythingers have added to their catalogue entries. A similar service is offered by Amazon, I know; I am not going to ignore the links between Librarything and Amazon, but I felt that Librarything was inflicting less pressure to buy.

I have toyed with the idea of creating an additional Librarything account for the Haddon Library. My thinking was that this would enable the kind of book-tagging by readers that seemed good when I was discussing Thing 8. However, any such project, if it was to grow and prosper, would require a properly-thought-through plan rather than a hasty implementation as part of my 23things homework. The Haddon has enough plans on the go at the moment.

I have heard rumours that the Aquabrowser project may come to enable tagging across the University's collections. I have added the Cambridge Library Widgets blog to my Google reader, and will keep an eye open for these developments.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Thing 13: Reflection

I have been keeping a diary since 1969, but always giving the sketchiest of accounts in it. Studying Corneille's Le Cid for A-level, I imagined that the hero might have recorded the events of the play, which by dramatic convention were supposed to have taken place within a single day, in the words "Killed Chimene's fr but can wed her in 1 yr. Had battle." I've often found that reflection comes easier, for me, in letters, or memos, that I address to specific readers other than myself.

* How have your skills/knowledge improved?

Knowledge has improved in the course of the cam23 experience, in that this has led me to explore facilities more fully than I would otherwise have done. If skill has improved, this has been, so far, at the level of knowing the correct mouse-clicks for operations such as inserting a link or a picture. I would not like to claim that I was always making the best links, or putting them in the best places, or choosing the best pictures. Or, come to that, making the best choices about whether things should be conveyed via email, blog, Twitter, Facebook, phone, face to face or not at all. But my work on the website for a campaign group in which I'm involved has drawn encouraging noises from others in the group.

* Have the 'Things' covered everything that you need to know, or think it relevant to know?

I was given a major fright by a presentation by Tony Hirst that pointed out the gaps in my professional knowledge. Since the links in the presentation were to blog posts that I could not understand without more knowledge in advance, I took refuge in cam23, or took to cam23, in hopes this might serve as a laying of groundwork. I don't know whether the skills listed in the presentation have at any point been considered as potential things, for this year or any future cycle.

* Do you feel more competent and confident?

In that it seemed perfectly natural to put myself forward as web person for the campaign group, and to cite cam23 as a reason for that offer, yes. But I have not forgotten the knowledge gaps already referred to.

* Is there one (or more) Thing that you would be happy to recommend to a colleague? Why?

Does this question refer to the web resources themselves, or to the exposition of them in the cam23 programme?

If the former, then Google Calendar, Doodle, and Delicious have proved indispensable for work, for reasons stated in the blog posts for them. Their use is often done in communication with colleagues, and can be said in those circumstances to amount by itself to a mode of recommendation. I have tried to interest people in Twitter, again for reasons stated elsewhere, and in my blog, for reasons mainly of showing off. I haven't had many takers for these last two.

As to the programme itself, I can say that I have promoted it to all who will listen. I think the expositions have been very clearly written, the background reading illuminating, and the general approach -- "Look at these things, have a go with them, tell us what you found, some of them may be of use to you" -- feels from here like exactly the right combination of instruction and laissez-faire.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Thing 12: Delicious

I've been using Delicious since March. It was, I suppose, a consequence of my Twitter enthusiasm -- I heard about so many new things worth reading, and needed to put them somewhere, and was not sure where I'd be when I got the opportunity to read them. Delicious was the obvious next step.

Why Delicious rather than Digg or reddit, I can't say. Perhaps Delicious was at the top of my mind for no better reason than its cupcake logo. I keep my consumption of those things under control by means of a diet and a chocolate protocol (details on request) but I can still think about them. And, icing or no icing, Delicious turned out to be fit for purpose.

The Delicious pages from libraries are daunting examples to follow. The Haddon has a page of links, with no Delicious involvement, in its existing web presence, and I sometimes promote new discoveries by email & Twitter. I will think about what a Haddon Delicious page would do in or to that scheme of things.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Thing 11: Slideshare

I'll structure this post around the questions Kirsty gives us in her instructions.

* What are your thoughts about the tool?

Useful for sharing slideshows, if they are something you want to share. See Max Atkinson and others for reasons why slideshows need caution. The library presentations that Kirsty refers us to are good, and I wondered if there was any factor in Slideshare that worked to filter out the bad. No such factor, notoriously, is at work for the web as a whole. I set about looking for bad
presentations that had made it to Slideshare. I did so in two separate searches, one for the phrase "chattering class" and one for the phrase "political correctness". I found some incompetent presentations thereby, and did not pursue that part of the experiment any further.

* What particular benefits to your Library would there be from using Slideshare?

For outreach, we might adapt some of our Alumni Weekend presentations, especially those that have involved the display of a sequence of books or pictures. Once or twice, indeed, we have used PowerPoint for that purpose, and I can think of one where the PowerPoint might, with some alterations, be worth putting online.

* Did you find any interesting presentations that you would like to share?

Not found on this search, but check out one by Tony Hirst and its pendant. The presentation is one I saw Tony give at the event "
A cut above the rest: justifying information services in a tough economic climate" which CILIP's Information Services Group put on at Swaffham in April. It lists the skills that librarians are coming to need, with links to blog pages; the pendant is a blog post by Richard Nurse at the Open University, who was at a later event that Tony led after reflection and feedback on the Swaffham presentation.

I have taken refuge in 23things for now; perhaps, at the end of it, I shall be closer to acquiring those other skills. I can see that the need to do so is unlikely to go away.

* Will you use Slideshare in the future?

I might do, especially for the purpose I described, of taking the Haddon's Alumni Weekend presentations to a wider audience. In terms of practicability, Slideshare has a thick edge over the fantasy I once entertained of recycling Alumni Weekend shows at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Things 9 & 10: Flickr & the use of images

Exploring Flickr and its images has been fun. I have seen photos of the village where I grew up, and even ventured a couple of comments on one of them. I have looked a little closer at Idlethink's 'bookporn' photo of the library where I now work, and added a note about how people can hear more of its doings. Do people account such a gesture imaginative or desperate?

I have added Idlethink and Sir Cam to the things I follow with Google Reader.

I dabbled a little in the exploration of photos tagged URBEX (urban exploration, especially of derelict buildings) and, I'm afraid, ventured from there into pictures, and even videos, of demolition.

Then it struck me that the best way to focus my exploration of Creative Commons licences would be to seek images that could be incorporated into electronic greetings cards. The images I have saved to disk are of my sister's church and a landmark on the National Cycle Network. But I see myself contacting the photographers before I embark on any attempt to use them in ecards. It would undoubtedly count as making derivative works, rather than simply reproducing; besides, I'm not sure where, in an ecard, I would put the CC licence.

My own presence on Flickr is minimal. I take very few photos. I expect my future dealings with Flickr to be, as in this exploration, a matter of using the resources it offers rather than adding to them.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Thing 8: Tagging

Have followed all the links and updated the tags in my blog. I can see I had better read The cult of the amateur; from the review, I suspect I would have more to say about it under Thing 22, Wikis, than at the present point in the agenda.

The Haddon Library uses the Bliss Classification Scheme. If you are familiar with Bliss, you will know that it builds classmarks by combination, which can make them inordinately long. At the Haddon, our way round that is to limit the specificity of any given book's classmark, and/or the number of facets of the book's subject that the classmark may cover. If necessary, we include additional classmarks in the catalogue record; and the English-language translations of those main and added classmarks are in the catalogue record as well, functioning like Library of Congress Subject Headings.

It is quite a job to keep these translations consistent with one another and with current usage, both specialist and non-specialist, and I can see a lot of point, the more so in a subject library, in letting readers augment the catalogue record with tags of their own.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Thing 7: Twitter

I have been using Twitter enthusiastically, with a personal account, for over a year now. For cam23, I've created a new account for the Haddon Library and compressed a photograph to fit it.

I have three main uses for Twitter.

Firstly, I respond to other people's tweets, if only to thank them for longer messages that their 140-character tweets have led me to. Many of the articles I have saved to my Delicious account, or noted in my CILIP revalidation log, are things I first heard of via Twitter. With a lot of these things, of course, even the URL is too long to fit into a tweet, and the tweeter's had to use a shortener such as . Some people claim that that by itself shows that Twitter doesn't work. I'm afraid I don't agree. For me, part of the beauty of Twitter is that it points outside itself, and doesn't say it provides everything.

I admit that responding to tweets may afford opportunities for showing off, e.g. with quotations that seem apt, and at times this will misfire. But those around me are used to that by now.

Secondly, I tweet announcements about things that are inherently public: concerts my choir is singing in, Haddon Library closing times, &c. I think the biggest buzz I ever had from Twitter was of this kind. Shortly before the closing date of the 2009 Haddon Library poetry competition, I heard a poem read on Radio 3 and recognised it as one that had been commended in, and quite possibly written for, the Haddon's previous competition, three years earlier.

It seemed to me good to announce the poem's accession to the airwaves, by way of encouraging potential entrants in the 2009 contest. This was a Saturday morning, and I hadn't had breakfast. I raced into work by bike, opened the files from the older competition to check details, and put out the news on the Haddon's blog, in an email to the list of people interested in the competition, and in a tweet. Actually the information needed a couple of tweets; I don't know if the buzz was doubled.

Having got that out of the way, I went & had breakfast at Eat, and -- yes, we need to keep swatting a persistent misconception about Twitter -- not one word about that breakfast ever appeared in a tweet.

My third use of Twitter is to keep a constant advanced search, with an RSS feed tied to it, of local tweets that might be relevant. My inital hope was that this might give me some idea of what people were saying about the Haddon Library. Be it admitted, the reader feedback I've had that way has been very small; but this search has shown me a steady number of archaeologists and anthropologists to add to the people I follow.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Communication amongst librarians

How serious is the problem of non-communication amongst Cambridge librarians? The means of communication are there — a whole heap of them, in varying degrees of activity, including CULIB, the Cambridge Library Group, the Camtools Cambridge Librarians site, the Facebook Cambridge Liibrarians group, the ucam-lib-discuss email list, the brownbag lunches, the Arcadia seminars, the libraries@cambridge annual conference. So if we don’t communicate it’s not for lack of opportunity.

I raised this question in the early days of the Facebook Cambridge Liibrarians group. I sought people’s favourite instances of things within the Cambridge library landscape that

  • should have been communicated & hadn’t been, & the consequences
  • had been communicated particularly badly, & the consequences
  • needed to be communicated now, & weren’t being, & the actual or potential consequences
  • had ever been communicated particularly well

I’m trying to remember what examples of any of the above have been cited in the course of the communications arising from recent Cam23 activity.

Perhaps what’s needed is not new channels of communication, just bolder use of the existing ones. As Cam23 is showing, when we’ve something to communicate about, we do communicate.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Thing 6: Google Calendar

I've been using a calendar, set up by my brother, on Google Calendar since the autumn of 2008, and Google became my main calendar site earlier this year. I have five different calendars on it, colour-coded to avoid confusion. (Yes, what you put on Google Calendar is calendars, so this blog post will be marked by worse-than-usual inelegance and ambiguity. Death loss of eyes/limbs.) Users may share their calendars; one of the calendars shared with me was in a colour I had used for one of my calendars, so I've had to change the colour of mine. There are 42 colours to choose from; if you ever run out of colours, it's likely that you are already trying to juggle too much.

Before Google, I used Mosuki, until Mosuki was taken down a couple of months ago. I praised Mosuki at every opportunity, as one of the most useful applications I had ever found. (Not that I found it for myself; it was another Phil Bradley recommendation, in his Update column.) Mosuki did what Google does: both have let me see my work schedule and my personal schedule all together, so there's less risk that I'll double-book myself; both have let me read and update my calendar from any web connection in the world; and both have been free!

And Mosuki had the further advantage, which I haven't yet found a way of replicating in Google: much more choice in the sharing of calendars. In Google Calendar, any calendar may be shared with other people, and different levels of sharing are available. For any individual event in the calendar, Google offers the following choice:

  • default (ie details of event have the same level of sharing as the calendar as a whole)
  • public (ie details are shared with the world)
  • private (ie details are shared only with people designated as 'owners' of the calendar)

Mosuki allowed individual choices about the sharing of each event.

Oh, I can think of one thing Google does slightly better than Mosuki. If you opted to view an entire month in Mosuki, you lost any indication of the timing of events -- tiresome if you wanted to print a month of your schedule for view on a noticeboard. In Google Calendar's month view, the timings remain visible.

But then, in Google, the events themselves don't necessarily remain visible. Some might be occluded behind such a statement as "+5 more".

I'm getting nerdish. Even the white bits were black.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Thing 5: Doodle

Screenshot shows evidence for my use of Doodle. I think I first came across this device when Rowland Thomas at the Marshall used it to schedule a meeting, and I have been using it myself, probably, for a couple of years now.

I have looked briefly at the other meeting schedulers referred to in the Cam23 blog: Meet-O-Matic and Tungle. I once took part in a Meet-O-Matic poll, and was struck by how very 1950s it seemed, in its name and in the font for its name. Unlike Doodle, Meet-O-Matic seems to offer no option for letting participants see one another's choices, and that is a drawback.

I might come to look at Tungle more closely, and I dare say I will soon be taking part in polls organised by people for whom it is their Doodle.

I admit that, on my first or perhaps second encounter with Doodle, I experienced some disappointment at its simplicity. It lets you take people's votes, as to a date, or a policy, or some other decision. It doesn't, as I'd started to imagine, let you key in factors or criteria & offer suggestions towards the decision. Is that a fantasy of mine, or have I heard of web sites that do as I describe? Phil Bradley's list of Web 2 sites doesn't appear to include anything quite like that. Do you know of any?

But what Doodle does is indispensable, and Doodle does it better than the other means that are available. I remember trying to organise meetings by means of birdcages.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

23 things banner

What's the best way to credit Ange Fitzpatrick for the banner? Not sure if a caption is how to do it. I was one of the last to adopt the banner, so maybe the credit is well enough known from what other Cam23 people said when adding it to their blogs.

If not, then this post.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Brown-bag 2 June 2010

The brown-bag discussion was lively. It's not in the nature of brown-bags to produce structured minutes, with resolutions and actions, and this one didn't. But the discussion never flagged, and I didn't have to throw in any of the prepared questions -- either to restart things or to get them back on track.

  • an amazing cadenza from a school librarian, frustrated at the poverty of provision in school libraries and the effect she saw this having on youngsters' literacy
  • speculations about what provision for online voting might do to re-invigorate CILIP's democracy
  • disclosures about the number of backchannels of communication, within CILIP and within the Cambridge library world
  • frankness about the need for librarians to learn new skills, especially programming skills
  • pleasure in the progress of Cam23, one organiser and several participants being of the party
Ten people were present. I had perhaps placed too much faith in Twitter -- indeed, I can be said to have fantasised about the likely effect that announcing the event there might have on attendance. I had not ignored other channels, but I suppose what I had put out through them was either too early or too late. A fruit of Cam23 is a burgeoning of individual blogs by Cambridge librarians, including this one; it'll be interesting to see how far we come to communicate as a result.

Next brown-bag will be at 13:00 on Wednesday 7 July, hosted by Libby Tilley in the English Faculty Library. See you there!

Brown-bag on Phil Bradley's CILIP 2020 post

Today's brown-bag lunch for Cambridge librarians will be at 13:00 in the Archaeology Department's South Lecture Room. Note that that's not where librarians' brown-bags have been held before. Enter building by Museum door in NW corner of courtyard, & get up to first floor, & you'll see South Lecture Room by the top of the stairs. See map.

Grist will be a blog post from internet guru Phil Bradley.

Phil Bradley is a regular in Update, and this particular post is on what the librarians' professional body CILIP might be like in the year 2020. He is daring CILIP to be something very different from what it is today. Here's a typical paragraph:

"I want to see CILIP get it wrong. I want them to make mistakes, and try things that fail. I want this for several reasons -- if they fail, and I can see how they have failed, it means that the rest of us can learn from them, and hopefully won't fail ourselves. If they fail, it means that CILIP is exploring and experimenting. Failure comes out of attempting something, and without failure you don't get success. I want CILIP to throw caution to the wind and to realise that getting it wrong isn't a bad thing, and that 'getting it right' isn't always the best result."

So -- whether you're in CILIP, or not in CILIP, or even if you haven't heard of CILIP -- come at 13:00 with your thoughts about that way of doing things, and that way of being a professional body, and what you would look for, or what you shun, in a professional body.

And the bonus of Betty's Tiffin from the CLG recipe book, recipe by Patricia Ward, cooking by Clare Baker.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Things 2 and 4

I have done a whistle-stop tour of most of the blogs listed on the 23things blog. I was looking for opinions on Thing 2 -- RSS feeds -- the one that I've always found less use for than I've felt was expected. I admit that I haven't done a systematic trawl of the blogs for references to RSS feeds. Perhaps, if I were to do so, I'd find more reason to explore that way of keeping track of things; perhaps I'll find it necessary in order to keep up with everybody's cam23 blogging. I haven't found any facility for putting an RSS feed on to this blog. Anyone know where to look?

Thing 1: iGoogle

I made iGoogle my home page, both on the home computer and at work. I can't report quite the degree of physical pain that Sarah found from carrying out the same operation, but perhaps that reflects lesser experience and lower expectations on my part. I was unable to add the Uni's front page or the log-in page for my bank. So far as I could tell, I was following the same procedure for those resources as for the ones I did succeed in adding, but maybe I was being hasty or had ignored some important difference between resource and resource.

It's fair to say that iGoogle has not yet given me the sense of liberation, of "Why didn't I do this earlier?", that I've had from other applications. I remember when I first took to using email and MS Word, back in 1991-1992. A couple of years earlier, I had struggled with learning to drive (a renewed attempt this year reminded me how completely I lack any aptitude in that direction); my driving instructor, 8 years my senior, had been amazed to find that I was younger than he was; the experience had left me fearing that premature middle age was making me unteachable. But when the Haddon joined the Union Catalogue, and all the other applications came sweeping in, I found I took to these new skills as a duck to water. The spinning of disks was associated in my mind with the spinning of the wheels on the larger, lighter pushbike I graduated to at the same time.

And I have had other computer liberations since then, such as the discovery of TransportDirect and the late lamented Mosuki calendar in 2006 (thanks to Phil Bradley for those), and last year's discovery of Twitter. iGoogle hasn't done that for me yet. But I was on Twitter for a couple of months before it came to life for me. How was it for you?

Monday, 31 May 2010

OK, down to business. Thing 3: blogs

It says "Write something here about what you hope to get out of Cam 23 and your previous experience of Web 2.0 and social media."

What I hope to get out of Cam23 is a proficiency in the use of tools I have up to now dabbled with, in hopes of making myself a bit more useful. As to my previous experience of those things (shown in cam23 order, and not shown at all if my experience is zero):


I appear to have got up an iGoogle page at some point in the last couple of years, and have, for cam23, put more stuff into it and made it my homepage.


I have since last autumn used RSS in connection with Twitter -- an RSS feed on an advance Twitter search tells me whenever anyone tweets the words Haddon, archaeology, anthropology, arch or anth within 15 miles of Cambridge. But I must admit I've never really found the swing of RSS feeds in general, or seen why going to a bookmarked RSS feed is meant to be less bother than going to a bookmarked web page. Perhaps I will know better by the end of cam23.


I have been writing the Haddon Library's blog since the summer of 2007, but that's in space from the Computer Officer. I did acquire some LiveJournal space by having my say on a story in the Independent in February 2009, but I've made no further use of LiveJournal.


I use this regularly to schedule meetings, and have tried to use it as a substitute for meetings. But the groups concerned have not always been willing to join in.

Google Calendar

My brother set up a Google calendar two years ago to co-ordinate family visits to parents. I'd been using since 2006, but that was taken down last month. I am now using Google with everyone else.


I joined Twitter in April 2009 and started tweeting in earnest a couple of months later. My tweets are of two kinds, in general: responses to other people's tweets and announcements of things that are inherently public. I keep my enthusiasm for Twitter under control by the rule that I don't look at it during working hours if anything is in my email inbox. I also use Twitter (see above, under RSS feeds) in hopes of hearing what people are saying about the Haddon. So far, be it admitted, I haven't heard very much that way.


I have a few photos on Flickr. I very rarely take photos myself, but I have had more experience of uploading pictures elsewhere. My wife Clare and I use her photos in e-cards.


An excellent displacement activity, when I am stuck on minutes or a heavy memo, is to throw what I've got so far into Wordle and see what comes out.


I have not put anything on to Slideshare, but I have occasionally viewed presentations on it by speakers I've been to hear in person.


This is a new enthusiasm of mine. Saving web resources to my Delicious account, and being able to call them up on any computer, is better than downloading them to one machine and then having to recall the URL on another machine, or copy the downloaded resources on to a data stick with all its vulnerabilities. Though I can see, after the Mosuki sadness, that I need to be a bit better prepared for Delicious to crash, or go down.


I have been using this for about a year to catalogue our books at home -- specifically, to catalogue our music scores.


I'm writing on what some have designated as Quit Facebook Day. I don't see myself taking that step, partly because my interest in Facebook has declined as my enthusiasm for Twitter has grown. My usual metaphors for the difference between the two are these: that if Facebook fits its 'walled garden' soubriquet, then Twitter is more like seed on the wind, as per Cory Doctorow; and that Facebook is like a holiday camp while Twitter is like a cycling tour.


I have used this in preparation for an Alumni Weekend presentation. I expected the wrong things -- starting with a hope that it would function like Delicious or Google Docs and not need carting from machine to machine -- and maybe cam23 will let me see more point to it, or to its rival Mendeley.

Google Docs

These are another thing that I was introduced to my my brother, who got up a document for the discussion of certain shared concerns. Clare & I keep our Christmas cards list on it now.


I have occasionally followed links to videos on YouTube. I have not, so far, made much use of it as a resource to be deliberately explored, though this evening I made a desultory YouTube search for llamas, in hopes of adding their vocalisations to the animal sounds I can mimic.


I have not explored wikis much beyond Wikipedia itself. On Wikipedia, I have made a few tiny corrections, a bit like annotating the programme during a concert interval, to Wikipedia entries -- see those for Gringley-on-the-Hill, Michael Drayton, open secret, and Polesworth.

That's my experience up to now. I will do the reading for thing 3, & register this blog as part of thing 4, later in the week.

First post on Blurtmetry

This is the blog I am getting up by way of following the 23things programme. I have been writing the Haddon Library's blog for a couple of years now, but Blurtmetry is my personal blog, the first I have created from scratch. Lisa Jeskins' blog last week recorded a similar transition.

I expect to use the blog more or less exclusively for 23things business at first, but I have toyed with the idea of blogging in other directions for some time. Perhaps I will take to it as enthusiastically as I have taken to Twitter.

The name of this blog -- Blurtmetry -- is that of a hobby I invented and then abandoned. Blurtmetry is the counting of blurts, those fragmentary utterances, unconnected with their immediate circumstances, that are triggered by the memory of gaffes and peccadilloes. In my life pretty well every waking moment is a jangle of such memories, and from June 2006 to August 2009 I wore a swimmer's lapcounter in order to count the resulting blurts. I called that piece of kit my blurtmeter, and noted the tallies in my diary every night; some day I might yet complete the spreadsheet transcription of diary with blurts tallies, and see if any sort of pattern emerges.

But such a wannabe Ignobel project had better wait until after the end of 23things. If I persist with blogging beyond 23things, then cod research of that kind will be one possible topic for it.