Promoting Your Resources Using Timeline Software

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I’ve been experimenting with historical timeline software recently to see if we could promote our library service resources online to our users (mostly books and online subscriptions around a particular topic area) in a different way. Historical timeline software allows the user to build a dated list of related events that can be browsed by other users. Normally our resources would be promoted by refering to them and linking  back to them from our website and via our Twitter and Facebook accounts. Our aim was to include the timeline as a small project focused on the Queen’s Jubilee and her links to Surrey – giving us a narrow topic area to deal with.

I had a look at a number of pieces of software before we decided upon which one to use. Below is a list of ideal requirements I wanted from the software.

Requirements
  • Use for historical/educational purposes.
  • Specify and display events chronologically on a dated timeline.
  • Upload a file or link to a resource on the internet (preferably our library service resources) for each specific event on the timeline.
  • Browser based software/service ie no need to download software to create the timeline.
  • Free software.
  • Ability to move/scroll/browse through the timeline visually.
  • Displays information on the timeline in an interesting and fun way.
  • Easy to use.
  • Quick to load.
  • Ability to embed finished timeline into other web sites.
  • Searchable.
  • Ability to add a range of media eg text, pictures, video, RSS feeds, audio.
  • Capability to specify date range of timeline.
  • Import data/information in timeline.
  • Export data/information in timeline.
  • Ability to share it with others.
Before deciding on which one to use I tried out the following – Memolane; Rememble; Preceden; Timelines.com; TimeRime; Tiki-Toki; XTimeLine; Dipity; Timeglider. They all allowed users to put timelines together in a slightly different way and below is a brief description of them, with pros and cons.
  • Memolane (http://memolane.com/explore)
    • Pros
      • Browser based
      • Easy to use
      • Can embed into other sites
      • Searchable
      • Can add a variety of item types – Twitter, Youtube, Soundcloud, blog feeds – it depends which services you connect to
      • RSS feed based, so doesn’t require manual input
      • Automatically pulls in information
      • Can filter feeds with keywords, which gives you a bit more control about what is displayed
      • Can browse along timeline
      • Can share individual parts (memo) of timeline via Twitter, Facebook & with a link
      • Can comment on individual entries
      • Can hide and delete individual “memo’s”
      • Links back to original resource
      • Indicates what services have been used in timeline eg Youtube, Soundcloud, Twitter
      • Can embed into other webpages
      • Link your accounts from other services to it and pulls in information automatically
      • Useful as a feed agregator for different services – use it as a way to show everything you’re doing in one place
      • Can move backwards and forwards along timeline
    • Cons
      • It’s best for personal use, rather than creating an historical timeline. However, you can add other information if you use the right RSS feeds/sources
      • Can’t add single items manually
      • Can’t upload separate files eg. photos, audio – need to be feed in through services you have linked
      • Can’t change timescales – dates aren’t always clear
  • Rememble (http://www.rememble.com/)
    • Pros
      • Good for personal use, rather than historical timeline
      • Browser based
      • Can embed mini memble (membles are events) in other sites
      • Can link to Twitter & Flickr
      • Add files – audio, video, images – & notes, emails
      • Can send membles directly from your phone to update the timeline
      • Ability to share, comment and tag membles
      • Can link in Twitter & Flickr accounts
    • Cons
      • More for personal use, than historical timelines
      • Can’t pull in news stories from the web
      • Wouldn’t authorise Twitter account
      • Can’t feed in RSS
      • I had problems uploading files
      • Memble is not visible to everyone – other users need an account to view your memble.
      • Can’t create separate timelines for different subjects.
      • Based around adding files (images, audio, video), rather than linking to resources
  • Preceden (http://www.preceden.com/)
    • Only allows you to add 5 events to a timeline if you have a free/trial account (didn’t continue with trial)
  • Timelines.com (http://timelines.com/)
    • Pros
      • Topics are assigned to an event eg. Birth of Anne Boleyn could be given topics of “Anne Boleyn”, “British Monarchy” and timelines are generated from the topics assigned to an event
      • Can collaborate with others on building a timeline
      • Can search for particular keywords
      • Can link to web resources
      • Upload files, videos, images, audio
      • You don’t have to create all events yourself – you can use events others have created
    • Cons
      • Can’t build separate timelines
      • Users don’t have control over what appears in a timeline – it depends upon what other events are tagged with that topic
      • Timeline doesn’t display in a scrollable horizontal timeline – it is presented as a list of events based on the tags used
  • TimeRime (http://www.timerime.com/en/)
    • Pros
      • Very flexible
      • Useful to see chronological list of events in edit mode
      • Can indicate level of importance of event. eg Birth of Monarch may be seen as very important, but their 18th birthday may be seen as lower importance
      • Can add media from url or upload files (NB: images can only be uploaded)
    • Cons
      • Detailed content doesn’t appear on timeline, but in box below it (each marker on timeline indicate that multimedia content is included in that event)
      • Can not pull in RSS feeds
      • Doesn’t look very exciting
      • Complexity can make setting up a timeline confusing
  • Tiki-Toki (http://www.tiki-toki.com/)
    • Pros
      • Browser based
      • Can add media via url inc text; video; images (images can also be uploaded)
      • Can link to web resources
      • Can pull in RSS feeds
      • Very flexible
      • End result looks interesting and visually impressive
      • Shows where events are on timeline, with marker on the dateline
      • Can export data from your timeline as csv or json
      • Can define categories of events eg. Surrey; General and display then using different colour indicators
      • Can browse along timeline
    • Cons
      • Only one timeline can be created with a free account
      • Can’t embed timeline into website with free account
      • Can’t search for events in timeline
  • Dipity (http://www.dipity.com/)
    • Its slowness and inclusion of adverts in the timeline if no video or image appeared in an event put me off continuing with the trial
  •  TimeGlider (https://timeglider.com/app/)
    • Pros
      • Ability to add images and text
      • Can link to web resources
      • Ability to pull in RSS feeds; Flickr photos (user account feed); Wikipedia pages (single year)
      • Embed in other sites & share with others
      • Personalise colour schemes
      • Emphasise importance of different events
      • Group events by using icons/displaying legend
      • Hover over events to see more detail
      • Browseable
      • It might be useful for creating project timelines
    • Cons
      • Can be confusing with different feeds pulled into a single timeline
      • Not visually exciting
      • Can’t search for events
      • Can’t export data

After trying out each one of the above I finally went for Tiki-toki. It didn’t fulfill  all of the requirements – most notably that it couldn’t be embedded in another site, you can’t search for specific events in the timeline and you can only create one timeline using the free account. However, it was the most flexible  and the end result was visually impressive too. Each event is displayed boldly on the timeline, with a link to at least one of our library resources and an image or video. The software enabled us to link to not only our own online resources and catalogue, but also some useful external resources too, such as old news reels and news articles.

The final “Queen Elizabeth II in Surrey” Tiki-toki timeline can be found here.

 

As an aside, I liked the idea of a personal timeline as well. I’ve been trying to find a way to pull together all of my feeds from my various blogs, Flickr, Tumblr etc in a single place and also build a scrap book of what I’ve been up to. I preferred Memolane over Rememble, so I’ll be exploring that a bit more in the near future.

Further Discussions About CILIP’s Volunteer Policy

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I’ve just come back from a CILIP Council meeting, where I’d been invited to discuss concerns about the current CILIP Use of Volunteers in Public Libraries policy. I’d already been informed prior to this that CILIP Council had agreed to review the existing policy and the plan for today was for me to put a bit of meat onto the bones of my initial concerns (and concerns of others) and provide some member perspective on the situation. Points I raised included:

  • The current policy is too brief, vague and too easily open to misinterpretation.
  • CILIP should state in the policy that it is against job substitution of any library staff. Job substitution featured so heavily in the recent volunteer policy review document that it warrants a clear statement indicating that CILIP is against this.
  • It currently leaves the door open for library service providers to interpret the policy in a way that wasn’t originally intended, go against the spirit of it and avoid fulfilling statutory duties and requirements for a comprehensive and efficient library service.
  • The written policy may be the first time people come across CILIP’s Volunteer Policy and, as such, it needs to clearly indicate CILIP’s stance.
  • The responses I received and read from CILIP Council representatives (including Mark Taylor, John Dolan and Phil Bradley) emphasised that CILIP does advocate for the profession, but this isn’t emphasised enough in the policy. This was also reflected in the discussion by others surrounding this correspondence. CILIP advocacy role needs to be backed up by the written word in this policy, as much as the policy needs to be back up by action from CILIP.
  • The length of discussion surrounding the policy (indicated above) serves to highlight that the written policy is currently ambiguous.
  • In highlighting the use of volunteers the policy needs to emphasise the critical need for professional/paid staff even more.

It was a positive discussion and encouraging to hear so many members of CILIP Council agreeing with the points above. It did raise questions about how the policy could be enforced and what would happen if employers or members went against the policy? Would the ethics board be called upon? How would members be expected to respond if they were asked to act against the spirit of the policy? This is obviously important, but in my mind, if you haven’t got a strong policy in the first place you won’t have anything to defend anyway.

I also understand that changing the wording of the policy won’t automatically make local authorities turn around and re-staff libraries. However, what I hope it will do at least is re-inforce the idea that the actions some library service providers are currently taking with regard to volunteers is unacceptable to CILIP and its members, and may in future stop others from going down this route. CILIP is one of the few high profile organisations that has the capability to influence national policy on libraries, and as such, its policies need to be strong.

The discussion also highlighted that concerns over volunteer policy isn’t just limited to public libraries or even in the UK, even though this is the area generating the most discussion. It’s a concern in other sectors and countries too. The strengthening of this policy should also help these sectors.

So, that was the discussion (what I can remember of it, anyway) and the aim now is for CILIP to review the policy over the next few weeks. By the end of July it’s hoped that the revised version will be in place and CILIP will present something that can be used to empower its members.

Response To My Letter Re. CILIP Volunteer Policy

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I received the following response from CILIP Council Chair, John Dolan, to my recent letter regarding CILIP’s Volunteer Policy. This was also published in the current (June 2012) edition of CILIP Update.

Dear Gary

I am responding to your letter on behalf of CILIP Council members. The review paper was indeed used at the March CILIP Council meeting to inform discussion, prompt debate and review CILIP’s policy about the use of volunteers in public libraries. The policy was agreed in 2010 and is kept under review, as are all CILIP policies. 

 The policy is:

“Use of volunteers in public libraries

CILIP acknowledges the contribution that volunteers make to libraries, enriching the services they provide and helping to sustain their viability.

In order to optimise the value of that contribution it should form part of a professionally managed public library service that has at its core sufficient paid staff to ensure the direction, development and quality of the service provided.

Volunteers are not ‘free’ and need proper management, training and development. In many cases a volunteers’ co-ordinator should be appointed to ensure appropriate management and recognition of the value of volunteers.”

The policy acknowledges that for many years volunteers have been a part of the work of public libraries and have contributed by extending library services beyond what is achievable with paid staff alone. Examples include home library services taking resources and information to people who are housebound; working with adults with learning disabilities who volunteer their time to deliver added value; and young people volunteering their time to make the Summer Reading Challenge such a massive success while learning and gaining in confidence.

The difficulty for everyone is that now they are being asked to take on more of the delivery of the core service rather than ‘added value’ aspects of it.

You’re correct, the policy does not currently explicitly say no to job substitution, it does state that the contribution volunteers make should be part of a professionally managed public library service. However, members of Council recognise the concerns that members have about this and have committed to reviewing and revising the policy. I understand that you have concerns and as you know I have to invited you to discuss the issues with members of Council.

CILIP has consistently refused to run training courses to volunteers and refused to run job advertisements for volunteers where it is clear they are substituting paid professional roles. In written evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport inquiry into library closures in England CILIP stated that a comprehensive and efficient public library service in the twenty-first century should be a:

“Professionally delivered service: by using the skills, experience and networks of professional library staff to shape services to the needs of local communities, engage  them effectively in service development, and ensure safe and impartial access to  services.”

Giving verbal evidence before the committee, CILIP CEO Annie Mauger, advocated for professionally delivered services. At a subsequent meeting with the Minister Ed Vaizey and public library chiefs Annie again advocated the importance of a professionally managed and delivered service.

At the same time local communities face difficult choices and a harsh reality where in many cases if volunteers do not come forward to support the library services, the libraries will be closed.  Volunteers cannot provide a library service as we all know it, as they lack the unique skills, expertise and values of paid staff.  CILIP has made a clear stand against this and against any local authority that considers this acceptable.

I look forward to discussing this with you.

John Dolan

Chair of CILIP Council

Links:

CILIP’s written evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport inquiry: http://tinyurl.com/crd3npf

Obviously, I’m really pleased that CILIP Council have decided to review the policy. The current situation generated a fair amount of discussion amongst the profession, including on Twitter and a number of blogs, listed here:

Johanna Bo Anderson’s blog.

CILIP President, Phil Bradley’s blog.

Question Everything blog.

Information Overload blog.

Public Libraries News.

I’m looking forward to meeting with CILIP Council over the next few weeks to discuss the situation, and hope that the discussion leads on to the formulation of a policy that leaves me reassured.

I’ll report back on the meeting.