Sunday, 28 August 2011

Referencing Tools - Thing 14 (cpd 23 Things)

Thing 14 talks about referencing tools, namely freely available downloads such as Zotero, Mendeley and Citeulike. I've not used these myself but have read some comments from those who have, and my impression is that there is no one perfect solution for free reference management but you may find that one of these fits your particular need.

In my day to day work I use RefWorks as this is the tool used by my institution. It works well and makes my job easier and quicker -I handle a large number of references whilst working on a different potential and current research projects. Using Refworks means that I can collate all my references and go back to them at any time, insert them in documents and produce lists of articles of interest for the senior researchers.

I wasn't completely enamoured with Refworks initially. I used Endnote when I wrote my Masters dissertation and found this to be far more intuitive to use (one of my pet hates is reading instruction manuals, so anything I can use by just 'figuring it out' gets my vote!). In contrast, I found Refworks clunky and I needed to use the help menu, even though I was familiar with how a referencing system worked.

What saved Refworks for me was the fact that there is a compatible web based version in which you can create an account, and then import or export references with your desktop version of Refworks. This is great when working at home as it means I can import or export all my refences to one place and I don't have to be using my work PC. The web based version is also free.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Google docs, wikis and dropbox - Thing 13 (cpd 23 Things)

Google docs and Dropbox

I've not used these before and I can already see huge potential for the role I'm currently in. I've just finished working on a collaborative project which involved constant emailing of updated versions with subject headings in capital letters of 'LATEST VERSION'! Using something like google docs or dropbox would have saved this particular headache, and I was already starting to think along these lines, which would have been so much easier.

The challenge: changing the way academics work. Some academics are not technical friendly and would find the hassle of having to remember another login just a bridge too far, and I can see how in the course of a very busy day it can seem like having to create another account and keep track of another login (who can remember them all anyway?) this would be too much. I think the benefits outweigh the initial 'getting to grips' with a new system, so I'll work on selling document sharing to some of my colleagues.

Wikis

I've used wikis set up by others for projects before, eg. I've participated in the library routes project, and used it for work before but not set one up myself. I'll be looking for ways these can be used in academic research.

I think all in all, technology is underused is research, so it's really interesting to try and find new ways, or even trying to establish some basic ways that technology can be used. It's quite exciting!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Social Networking - Thing 12 (cpd 23 Things)

I'm guessing even the most unenthusiastic social networker uses social networks.   I know people who don't know how to text and refuse to learn.  Perhaps they don't need to.  They do use email prolifically though, so what's the step from emailing to social networking?   I wonder what's that little push?

I don't actively use facebook, but I do keep an eye on posts that come directly to me.  I can see that there's benefit in using these online networks, and I'm slowly building up my professional network which is really important to me.  Online networking is really my only link with what's happening in libraryland, and it's the only place I get to hear about what other info and library people are talking about.  

There is a down side, though.  I love my friends, but I don't really need to know that they are suffering from a hangover.  This is the thing I dislike about social networking.  I've seen ex-colleagues talking about clients on their facebook page.  I've seen people talking about a colleague they share an office with on Twitter.  You all know that this is a complete no-no, and yet when there is just you and your keyboard/phone you think that the person you're talking about will never see your comments.  And I don't think I will ever be able to bring myself to list what I've had for breakfast.  Also, for me personally, I hate swearing.

Once you put something out on social media it pretty much stays there... that's one to think about.  

Social media has brought me into contact with loads of people I wouldn't otherwise have come into contact with, and would have had no way of coming into contact with.  That's quite mind-blowing when you sit down and start to think about it.  I've had contact with people who are sleeping right now because of time-zones. It makes staying in touch easier than it's ever been, although online contacts are very different to any other kind of 'relationship'.  It's different mind-set, a different groove.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Mentoring - Thing 11 (cpd 23 Things)

The only experience I've had of mentoring so far is being mentored for charterhsip. My mentor was someone I knew of beforehand, but I didn't known very well. It's been useful to have someone with experience to bounce ideas off, and good to talk over little niggling problems. The only down side of the experience is that, being manically busy in an academic library, it can be really hard to get an appointment to see her - it once took me four months! So, my mentoring log is quite a short one!

I think having a mentor of some kind is a great thing anyway, and need not be related to something like chartering. Someone who has experience of the working world and can give you a different perspective sometimes. This doesn't have to be someone in your industry, just someone who understands the problems you might face, and these are often more universal than you might think; problems with colleagues, projects, office politics are all problems everyone faces at some point, regardless of where they work.

My sort of unofficial personal mentor is my other half - he has loads of experience working in offices of all kinds, and being freelance, of organisations and office cultures of all kinds. Any problem I face, he has faced it already: sometimes we face the same problem at the same time and we act as a sounding board.

The good thing about having someone to discuss all these things with makes you realise that you are not alone in the issues you face at work, on then other hand, you might say that these things never go away...

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Professional Development - Thing 10 (cpd 23 Things)

MSc
I have paid at least some of my dues in the professional development department.  A couple of years ago I finished an MSc in Library and Information Studies gained with The Robert Gordon University.  I chose this course as many others do because I could do it whilst working and it is accredited by CILIP.  I was working at the time in an information role already but wanted to improve on my professional qualifications.  I also worked a late evening every week in an academic library.  

To be honest, I wouldn't advocate doing it this way -working full time plus part time job plus study did not make a good combination - I had no life for three years and I was exhausted after the first year.  However I was delighted to finally finish and receive my MSc with distinction.  I did have a lovely supportive partner who shoved food and cups of tea under my nose occasionally, but if you're thinking of studying along with a demanding full time job (I used to do additional evenings/Saturdays at certain times of the year), think about how you're going to cope with the sheer amount of work you have to put in, and with the  likelihood of having to take quite a chunk of your personal leave as study time.

What I'm saying is this - don't do it unless you really, really want to.

The MSc didn't really help me with my library/information career to be honest.  There are so many people out there with library qualifications now, I think experience count more.  Employers have their pock of library qualified people.  Having said that, having done my own research was a definite plus when it came to my current role - I've have a good solid understanding of how research works and is carried out.

Chartering
I'm now attempting to charter, which as I've said before elsewhere on this blog, is a challenge when you're not in a traditional library role.  I'm hoping that the chartership board will be keeping an open mind when it comes to the variation of information roles out there!  I think this variation will become more common in this economic climate, and qualified librarians have to look at roles which they perhaps wouldn't have considered a few years ago.  It's taken me a while, but I think I may see light at the end of the tunnel...

Evernote - Thing 9 (cpd 23 Things)

Yay, now we're onto something I know about.  I do like Evernote, and I started using it a little while ago.  I used to use notebooks (although I still do, just in a different way to my everyday "I want to remember that' kind of way).  But now I get to file away everything I want to make a note of all in one place, and I can tag, sort, rearrange, deleter, add to, edit and view to my heart's content.   Notes, web pages, URLs, pictures, whatever you want can go into Evernote.

I've converted a few other people too, who are all finding it useful.  And you can take it with you wherever you have access to a PC, or use it on your iPhone or ipad with the apps for those machines.  Syncing makes it seamless.  In short, it's great.  Try it if you haven't already!

My cats


I wondered what sort of image I should upload as my first photo, and it was no competition really.  These are my cats.   The ginger and white one knows he's beautiful, but the black and white one is just as adorable.  Their names?  Willoughby and Martha.  

Monday, 1 August 2011

Librarians doing it wrong

Girl in the Moon's blog ( http://maedchenimmond.blogspot.com/2011/07/doing-it-wrong.html?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed ) highlighted a post from Social justice librarian recently about a bad experience in an academic library.  See also http://sjlibrarian.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/how-academic-libraries-annoy-academics/#comments

As a researcher who has trained and worked in an academic library, I have to agree with the perception that sometimes the antiquated system just does not work.  Many of the articles I need are not available on our databases as it's geared up for undergrads.  Sometimes the frustration is off-putting when dealing with library systems, because past experience has shown that whatever query you're about to undertake might not result in the required item being obtained.

I don't really understand the comments on these articles where the researcher is being criticised for not immediately speaking to a member of the library staff.  Wherever you go these days, you are being urged to use automated systems.  So it's the consumer's fault when they don't work?  Having found that the automated system you're using can't give you the answer you're looking for, you then have to spend twice as long joining a queue to speak to someone - I can completely understand that there are reasons that this might not happen: lack of time being a main one.  Plus you've already lost confidence in the service you're trying to access by that time.  We can't criticise users for complaining about not speaking to staff when the front line service is online or automated - it's like putting your bank details into a cash machine and then having to go inside and get a member of staff of to give you your cash.

I really try and advocate libraries - in life generally and in academia.  Many of my academic colleagues have, shall we say, a negative view of the library because it can't deliver in more ways than one.  It's a colossal effort to advocate libraries when I have experienced shortcomings myself as an academic researcher.

It's not going to do anyone any favours criticising the users for the way they are using, and being encouraged to use, the academic libraries.

Stephanie Plum

Stephanie Plum is the frothy coffee of the literature world: indulgent, addictive, and you want to eat cake with it. I love these utter madcap and playful novels by Janet Evanovich about a new jersey bounty hunter. I've just finished number instalment number 17 and am now waiting for number 18, due out in November. Laugh out loud moments make these romps pure pleasure to read. There's still time to catch up if you haven't yet discovered Stephanie, the two men in her life and her granny.