Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The end is nigh...

After all that social media and technology information overload we have reached the final hurdle in the Rudaí23 course.  The last frontier, the last post to complete what has been an interesting and enlightening course.  How to manage all these new accounts and perhaps keep up my blog posts??

I'm feeling now I just need a break, a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit or two!!

I want to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in the Rudai23 course, the Western Section of the LAI for supporting the initiative and to the many who signed up to participate.  New friendships have been established and new skills have been learned.

The library world better be ready...once the tea is drank :)

Mobile things

All things mobile, isn't that the way society is going anyway? Everything at your fingertips and the convenience of just opening your phone and browsing through the vast number of apps available to you. I recently sat in a team meeting where the most high profile and high ranking officer in attendance continued to use his smart phone while he was supposed to be hearing the final recommendations from the team.  I call that rude, but maybe I'm just old fashioned. 

Apps so  the news is streamed in real time, the sports, the celebrity gossip, the farmers journal and  foal sales at Goffs - (they are probably just for me) but in reality you never have much time to yourself.  Research has highlighted issues within relationships and parenting as people become more addicted to online news and information.  Where is the down time?

However I do have my little pet app that I log onto everyday to catch up on, it's like my little comfort blanket when work gets me down - Agriland :)  It keeps me up to date on latest news, EU stories, Dairy, Beef and Equine Industries.  My little bit of heaven!!  A country girl at heart. Nothing what so ever to do with been a professional librarian.

But this Rudai23 course has introduced me to different applications, media apps etc. and while I have enjoyed learning about how they work I have no interest in using many of them on a daily basis. I value my time without phones, internet and the like and enjoy just getting out meeting people and like the isolation the countryside gives me.  Considering we work in an underfunded, over-stretched public service our time at work is pressurised but I enjoy my role meeting patrons and assisting them with their queries or perhaps even to take time to listen to their problems.  After 'giving' so much to the public I like nothing better than to retreat to my space and engage with those whose friendships I value most.

While  50% of people aged between 55 and 64 have smart phones that still leaves 50% of the population that don't engage with mobile technology or online.  That's a lot of people that still need to be reached, still need a library service or community engagement.  We can engage with our patrons on different levels but shouldn't just focus on technology.  Many of those out there don't have the skills to engage online and it is these people who we shouldn't forget, these are the people society is leaving behind and causing divides within communities.  It is the role of the library to ensure that all are welcome and all are given the same chance within our communities.

I would urge caution in relation to using many of these technologies from a library perspective unless your library authority has already developed a good communications policy that details what is and isn't acceptable in terms of usage of online services.  Too many times we have had complaints from members of the public who weren't happy receiving texts or notifications of events the libraries were hosting without receiving proper consent from the patron to do so.  It's a very fine line between marketing and information provision to your patrons and one we as librarians have to be very clear on.  We also have to ensure that the appropriate data protection is in place and that data isn't shared with third parties.
I welcome advancement in all its forms but I would welcome proper guidance and conversations about appropriate usage from a library perspective.

Monday, 16 November 2015


I would agree that a 'picture says a thousand words' and would go so far as to say that a picture can have a more lasting impact on a person.  For those of us who are trying to catch people's attention with displays, information notices or new legislation the ability to use something like an Infographic makes such sense.  Also these would be most useful if developed appropriately to assist people with literacy problems and those whose first language is not English.

We've all probably seen an Infographic as it's used in online marketing and in the media on a regular basis.  I've never used one in a library setting and now after reading about them as part of the Rudaí23 course I'm wondering when can I have a go at producing one for the library!

I know of one occasion that I would have loved to have had the awareness and skills to develop an Infographic.  I was responsible for the upgrade of Westside library in 2012  to include self service and the introduction of RFID technologies. This upgrade was done while the library was open and involved the cataloguing onto the new system of all our stock plus the addition of self-service machines and a new reception area.  I produced so many posters explaining to the public the changes, apologies for disruption, what the new technologies would mean and finally having to produce a guide on how to use the self-service machines.  All of these could have been more professionally done using an Infographic. 

Thanks to Rudaí23 I'll be better prepared for the next major project in my library career, but I'll be having a go a producing some of these for the library perhaps with a Christmas theme...time to start been creative I think!

Copyright, Presentations and Conferences

I'm going to combine copyright, presentations and conferences in this post because I feel that they are perhaps linked and very relevant today. I wrote the post for presentations but in doing so I touched on the issue of copyright as I pulled the post together for the Rudaí23 course.  I was very aware of plagiarism and spent some time reading, absorbing and re-stating the main issues that were raised in a number of books and articles about presenting and presentations.  It's easy to see how people just copy and paste and also perhaps many haven't the knowledge about copyright. 
I encountered this issue recently when we hosted an induction program for transition year students who were preparing to do a history project for their leaving certificate.  Their answer to 'where do you find information' was Wikipedia and Google.  Copyright was met with silence as we tried to show them the importance of research, sources and crediting.

The books that I read detailed at length the strengths of a good presenter, the abilities required to engage and to keep an audience interested and the importance of copyright in all its forms.  The pressure that these academics, business mentors and lecturers are under is shocking and still they have to deliver quality presentations that inspire and encourage the business leaders of the future.  These few posts made me consider the recent conferences that I've attended as part of the Alumni of NUI, Galway and the high profile guest speakers that have delivered presentations with timeless style and confidence.  I'm in awe of some of them, even the ones whose first language isn't English!

Conferences by their nature give people an opportunity to network with like-minded individuals and share/discuss new theories, management styles and sometimes legal issues that have had an impact on industry.  It gives you the opportunity to share your projects and your way of doing things to a wider audience and help develop your brand and your profession as a whole. 
I would encourage everyone to attend at least one conference a year (budget allowing of course) and start developing your network by sitting with someone who you don't know and introduce yourself - I recently did this at an accounting conference and met two really interesting ladies who were recent graduates of NUI, Galway and now working abroad.  They were most willing to engage and share their experiences with me, as I was with them.
I also make it my business to email presenters after a conference and thank them for their 'interesting presentation on.....' I normally receive a reply plus the PowerPoint notes that I can use for my CPD.

However, we can only do so much as librarians in relation to Copyright, we can ensure that what we do is within the legal parameters and we can advice people on what they can and cannot do.  We can't take responsibility for every citizen, we are there to inform, guide and encourage - that covers copyright, presentations and our attendance at conferences.

Westside Story

As I've previously mentioned I'm a visual person and the idea of using photographs to tell a story or to engage with our public in a library setting really interests me.  I want just to share our story of using photographs for celebrating a growing community.

Back in Spring of 2014 my colleague Cora and I sat down and came up with a program of events to mark our library been ten years in the community.  It's not a long time for a library I know, but the community bonds we have made over the years are priceless and we are seen as a hub for the area.  Children and elderly use our library on a daily basis, we have active retired groups meeting, knitting groups and a women's group who support women living in the community by providing training, education and craft opportunities.  The place is always buzzing!

Westside Library
We wanted to give something back to the community as our way of saying thank you for making us feel welcome. We invited the National Gallery of Art, Dublin to join us in an outreach program with our local kids who wouldn't ever have the opportunity to visit the Art Gallery in Dublin, we invited Ballet Ireland to host workshops in the library, we invited the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin to host talks and exhibitions on their vast collections - and the amazing thing was all of these institutions agreed to come and celebrate with us! Children got to experience Art in its' many different forms and really enjoyed the experiences we helped to provide.

But we wanted something for those living in the area so we came up with the idea of putting together a project that would reflect the history of the area and its development through the use of maps and photographs.  We called it 'Westside Story' as Westside is the name of our library.  We started by looking at what was available in the Archive and then decided to hold an open evening where people could pop in and chat with us, perhaps share some memorabilia or photos.  We had the ability to scan them and return them on the night.  We thought we might get twenty people but we were overwhelmed by the support and interest with the event seeing closer to sixty people coming to share their stories, photographs and artefacts with us. Even the opportunity for people to share their stories was appreciated and the evening ended up been a long night with plenty of tea drank.

From all these materials we pulled together a wonderful exhibition that showcased the development of the community from early times right up to the development of the Church, shopping centre and library.  The photos and maps were scanned and presented on large exhibition boards with details of each added.  It was pressurized to get the exhibition completed within the timeframe but we and those who came to view it were thrilled with the outcome. I haven't included any of the photographs here due to copyright issues but the exhibition is shown on a regular basis in the library.

It's something that we would love to do again or perhaps help another community exhibit the vast rich heritage that they have.

Bush telegraph

Collaboration tools - the idea that a team can use a central tool or software to assist in the development of a project or program of events has to be viewed positively.  How many meetings have we all attended with people rushing in with bits of paper, copybooks, amended notes or post-it markers (I'm guilty of the post-it) and still not having an up-to-date account of the projects progress.  Frustrating for sure, unprofessional? Yes.

I've used Google Drive for the past few months while working with the team developing this Rudai23 course and have found it so simple and easy to use. The hard bit for me was to remember to log into it on a daily basis as I'm not working full time.  I've a little toddler plus family business that distracts me from engaging with computers and living in the Wild West means sometimes the internet connection isn't what it should be.

I'm going to use this post to cover Collaboration tools and also a reflective practice topic for the Rudaí23 course as I'm feeling pressure to catch up and hopefully finish.  Hats off to all involved as it was difficult to pull it together and the interest in the course really showed how relevant the topics are in todays Information Society.

Since starting the course and taking my first few steps into the online world with the addition of blogging and experiencing all different kinds of media I've realised that many of us out there really don't have the skills to fully engage with todays world.  I'm not too bad in the sense that I've had experience online, use Facebook for family and use online elements for work etc. but imagine all those people who visit our libraries and information centres who haven't any skills or awareness of the vast amount of media streams, websites and ways to access funding for students and business.  Support networks that are available for businesses.  Government departments that have put all their data, applications and news online. Literacy and the lack of digital literacy is a growing problem and one that I think people don't fully comprehend. I see our role as librarians and information professionals gaining more importance if only those in authority could see its' value.  I see a huge role for libraries throughout the world assisting those who don't have access or skills to engage with society but I also see libraries and librarians highlighting the issues and problems on a national scale.

I've mentioned Advocacy in a previous post and feel very strongly about the importance of it in relation to our profession.  As local authorities and governments look to close libraries and not hire librarians I would ask them to look at the network they are demolishing. For example, Galway library service has over 29 branches spread across the entire county plus a mobile and a schools van to service hard to reach locations, nursing homes and our schools that help educate the next generation. Each of these libraries is staffed by a person who has unique knowledge to the area, who knows the supports groups, the heritage groups, the literacy tutors and the public health nurse on a personal level.  These librarians are part of a community and are the positive face of local authority.  This positive element could be utilised by supporting the libraries with information provision, departments hosting events within the community in a library setting and also allowing feedback through the libraries to local authorities on what their policies and projects are doing to communities.  In reality how often do we as citizens engage with local authorities or government departments?  This network would support and engage the community very effectively.

Let's use collaboration tools, social media, libraries and networks to build a new 'bush telegraph' within our communities and assist each other in up-skilling and accessing the information society.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Time to stand up...

Advocacy for libraries is another post from the Rudaí23 course and looks to highlight different organisations and campaigns that help promote, develop and assist in the fight to maintain library services throughout the world.  It's an interesting topic and one that should be relevant to all of us librarians regardless of sector.  In one sense it's sad to see these campaigns as it's shows how much Government and those in Authority really value the contributions libraries and librarians make to society.  Interesting also to note that they are UK and America based and not one for Ireland.

Report after report issues statements about 'literacy' and the importance of tackling the problem. We are encouraged to assist those who are marginalised because of their lack of skills and help them engage with the 'new information society'.  New taskforces, partnerships and media campaigns are created using great buzz words showing that Government understands the problems.
These same Governments cut spending to libraries, close libraries in areas of social disadvantage, put in place staff embargos and undermine the profession as whole. These same Governments think that libraries are customer service centres for the local authorities.  While we are information providers, we are so much more and the most important element to our profession is our ability to engage with our communities and we have very successful outreach programs.  We are pro-active in identifying, addressing and engaging with people who haven't the confidence, skills or ability to be part of the information society.
I work in a library that is based in an area of social disadvantage and I see on a daily basis the difficulties many people face in trying to participate in society.  I've had an elderly woman who had her credit card details stolen and the bank told her to go online and fill in a particular form, the lady hadn't even been on a computer in her life, to a young mother who wanted to apply for a course as she had no formal education and was nervous completing the form, these are the citizens that are affected by Governmental decisions, cutbacks and Organisational change.

We are lucky to have a great team of staff in my library with many varied skillsets, we actively promote literacy in the local maternity hospital through our 'Start Now' project, we have shared readings sessions with literacy tutors, reading aloud sessions with teenagers, we most recently launched our 121 digital program assisting those who want to learn more about technology engage with the younger generation who grew up with it. We also deliver music workshops with live music performances throughout the year.  We love what we do. Imagine what we could achieve if we had the money, support and staff to allow us meet our communities needs??

The previous topic of the Rudai23 course was Augmented Reality, I've never used this but I've seen it in action as part of our summer reading challenge when my colleague Niamh developed some beautiful posters to complement the theme of bees.  Kids really enjoyed wandering around the library and scanning the posters to see what would happen.  It added a new welcome dimension to the program. 
Wouldn't it be lovely if you could do a poster campaign with Augmented Reality that would include details of projects running in your area relating to literacy? Or have details of your library events at your fingertips?
Or as we face the cutbacks and financial difficulties and have to fight for our libraries we could use AR to inform our public about book fund cuts, staff embargos, closures..

Maybe it's time for Advocacy for Libraries to rear its' head in Ireland before it's too late..