Newsweek Print versus E-book Infographic


I enjoy the creativity in infographics – it beats looking at data as figures or on a bog standard pie chart or graph. I thought the Newsweek infographic created to show a comparison between printed books and e-books was fun. It’s set out like a poster for a boxing match. The details of the two contenders are set side by side – a weighing up of the pros and cons of the each type of book. It was interesting to see how things balanced out between the two.

At the top of the poster it asks if there has to be a winner, suggesting that the two can live side-by-side for a long time to come. Figures are given for average production, royalties and sales (in US $). It also humourously suggests that printed books are great if you want to impress a stranger with what you’re reading and e-books are great if you want to hide your reading habits from them.

However, out of all the information presented there, the main thing that appealed to me from the point of view of a librarian was the statement “Walking to the library is still the most ecofriendly way to read.”

It’s a great acknowledgment of the greenness of libraries! Not only do we recycle books, but getting access to them is environmentally sound too.

We Love Libraries


It’s getting a bit disheartening at the moment reading all the negative comments and articles about libraries and library staff. People questioning why they exist; the old stupid clichés about librarians just stamping books all day and saying “Shush!”. Since April this year I’ve been keeping a list of articles and blog posts on the internet that either question the validity of libraries or support them. Whether the article is a positive or negative one they often generate so much feedback and comment that you get a wide range of mixed opinions on them too. I do get involved in the defence of libraries/library workers when I come across these articles, but I’m also ready to leave it to other people who can put the arguments across much more clearly than I can.

I feel I should be doing more myself, but I’m not sure what to do. I’m not a very outgoing/public speaking/think-on-my-feet sort of person, so I don’t feel I can offer much there.

I suppose an easy thing to do is to get positive and I thought it would be a good idea to put something together to show how many people who don’t work in libraries actually love libraries. Just to show everyone that people are positive about libraries and that we aren’t fighting a losing battle.

(image mySAPL, Flickr)

As a five minute thing some time ago I put together a very simple We Love Public Libraries webpage and I’d like to build on it in some way. It doesn’t do very much – just social mentions of people saying they love libraries, but I like the simple idea of just having people saying that they love libraries.

Today, to start with, I set up a few Twapperkeeper archives that will search for common phrases like ‘love libraries’, ‘love the library’, ‘:) libraries’, etc in people’s tweets. I’m not certain how accurate they will be in pulling out the information I want, as I’m not sure if the archiving search works in the same way as the Twitter search functions. I’ll have to wait and see – I can always filter the archives anyway. So long as I capture as many tweets as possible in the first place, that’s what counts.

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going to go with this idea and the tweets collected, but just having a positive thing like that archived means that there’ll be a long list of people saying that libraries are for them even without being prompted. To start with I could just build on my original idea. I also think that visualisations/infographics can be effective, so maybe there’s an opportunity to do something in that direction? It would also be great if it could be the basis of something practical.

So, any thoughts/ideas would be welcome.

Defining Our Professional Future CILIP Report


The CILIP “Defining our professional future” (pdf link) report was published in July 2010 and, as I took the time to fill it out, I was interested to see what it said.

It was interesting to see which aspects of technology had the most impact on current roles in the library and information world (pg.33). Digitised resources and E-books/journals came out top, followed by social media, virtual working, mobile working and open source software.

It was even more interesting to see how this was broken down in the different sectors.

  • Academic – made most use of digital resources, e-books/journals, social media sites, open source and cloud computing
  • National sector – digital resources
  • Health – E-books/journals
  • Industrial – virtual working, mobile working, semantic web
  • Public/local authority – mobile working

I just wonder what this all implies? Does the Academic sector have more scope to experiment with technology? Does the industrial sector use of virtual and mobile technology indicate their general out-and-about working lifestyle. Is the National library sector using digital resources as part of their digital preservation role? Is the Health Sector high use of e-books/e-journals an indication of their early take-up of these resources (I remember using full text CD-Rom’s of medical journals in the mid 1990s). It’s interesting that the Public/local authority sector also has a greater use of mobile technology – maybe this is down to use of Blackberry’s etc to access emails when out of the office? 

When it came to the question about where respondents thought technology was heading in the future (pg.36), there was an increase in how many people thought technology would impact on them. There was also a slight shift in the rankings – Web3.0/semantic being the highest mover up the list. The differences in opinion in how technology would affect different sectors seemed to reflect what I’ve heard people from these sectors currently talking about – how they plan to deliver services in the near future.

The report also asked what skills the respondents used in their current roles (pg 37-38). From my point of view, the interesting thing here was the difference between the number of respondents who saw themselves as organisers/disseminators of information (eg information evaluation and management) and those who saw themselves as creators of information (eg classifiers, cataloguers, indexes, database creators and web publishers). I know this probably isn’t the right way of phrasing it, but hopefully you’ll see what I mean. The organisers / disseminators were higher up the rankings.

With regard to the future (pg.41-42), information evaluation and management were holding steady. However, the reduction in indexing, cataloguing and classification skills in the future seems to reflect the fact that we are recognising that most of the data we need is out there already for us to use, we can pool it together and we don’t need to create as much of it from scratch as we have done in the past. On the other hand as more information moves online it looks as if database design and web publishing skills will still be needed to present this information in the way that is most useful to our users.

It was also great to see communication skills were at the top of the current skills list, but at the same time a bit odd to see teaching was only relevant to 50% of the respondents. Shouldn’t this figure be higher? Aren’t we also about teaching users to find information too, no matter what role we’re in?

I just wonder how right we’ll be about all of this? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Magnificent Maps Exhibition


I visited the ‘Magnificent Maps’ exhibition at The British Library a couple of weeks ago. It contained so many colourful, imaginative and impressive hand drawn maps covering social, historical and political aspects of life. The creativity that went into these maps was fantastic. My particular favourites were a Chinese terrain map on silk (1700), an Eastern European map from 1896 showing scenes from daily life and The Tsarist octopus map (1877).

(Photo by Annie Mole, Flickr)

The British Library also made great use of technology, by projecting a couple of the maps onto table tops and giving users what looked like a magnifying glass to explore the map in more detail. One of the maps was a reproduction of Fra Mauro’s Mappa Mundi from the 1450s. The magnifying glass didn’t have a lens, but when you placed it over certain parts of the map it expanded the image via the projector. It may have been RFID enabled, but I’m not certain. If you highlighted specific parts of the map it would also give you a pop up box of information and a voice-over would explain the significance. It was a really clever way of giving a bit more of a background to the map and what it meant. You can have a look at the map here and explore it in a similar way to the map at the exhibition.

(Prince_Volin, Flickr)

It was just really interesting to see all the creative things people have done with maps over the years and it’s given me a few ideas about what you can do with digital maps, rather than just putting markers on them and adding a bit of text.

Random Information Generated By a QR Code


I attended another great Mashed Libraries event in Huddersfield on Friday. (I’ll write a proper blog post about it later). As part of the event we were asked to bring/create our own name badges. So I decided to create one around a QR code, as one of the themes of the day was QR codes. This is it…

My QR Code badge for the Mashed Libraries Huddersfield event.

QR codes are basically barcodes displayed in a 2D square and when scanned with a QR code reader (often a piece of software in a mobile phone) you are taken to a web page. They are normally used in the physical/real world to connect to information on a web page. ie You can put a QR code anywhere you like – on a desert island and as long as you had an internet connection it would link to a web page when scanned.

I wanted to do something a bit different with my QR code, rather than it just linking to a static web page. So, using Runbasic I created a very basic webpage that displayed random information/misinformation about me when the QR code on the badge is scanned. If you scan the QR code above a few times you’ll see that the information in the last line changes. If you don’t have a QR scanner type in a few times to see what happens. There’s about 5 different pieces of information.

It was a daft and simple idea (that was the intention), but I wonder if a serious idea could be built on this. For example, could you put a QR code near a subject area in a library, or an exhibit in a museum, or a historic landmark and every time someone scans that QR code it gives you different/random facts about the subject area/exhibit/landmark, as a taster, rather than bombarding you with lots of information? If you wanted to find out more information about that subject/exhibit/ landmark, you could then follow a link on the webpage to more information.

The great thing as well about my badge is that I won a prize for it (one of the top six), which I really didn’t expect. 🙂 This is it… A bottle of Blandford Fly beer – It’s one of my favourites!

Blandford Fly beer bottle