Telling tales: Digital story workshops

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Yesterday I ran my last workshop of the year focusing on using digital tools for storytelling. In this case it was a family-friendly game making workshop with an Alice in Wonderland theme. It tied in with the Pocket Code and Scratch #AliceGameJam that begins tomorrow. My intention was to introduce attendees to Pocket Code as a tool that can be used to easily create interactive programs, stories and games and also encourage those attending to get involved in the game jam. Only a few people attended, but that did make it easier to run the session and help those that were there, and I received positive feedback at the end of the event.

I also ran a couple of sessions recently about creating interactive fiction using a piece of software called Inklewriter. I wanted to target creative writers who were interested in doing something new with their writing. That said, future Inklewriter sessions could focus on other topics eg local history, or personal biographies.

Both sessions were hands-on and gave those attending the chance to find out about the software and spend time creating something new with it.

If anyone is interested in finding out how I ran the sessions and the notes/handouts I used, please feel free to get in touch.

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One Week In My Librarian Life #libday8

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This is a blog post for the “Library Day In The Life” Project. This project is a semi-annual event where librarians, library staff and library students from all over the globe share a day (or week) in their life through blog posts, photos, video and Twitter updates.

As a bit of a background, I’m a Technical Librarian for a public library service in England and also a founder member of the Voices For The Library campaign.

Monday (30th Jan)

A day off work, but still I’m doing library based stuff. I’ve got a few things going on at the moment around Voices For The Library, so I’m trying to keep on top of them. This includes:

  • Preparing for a meeting on Wednesday about public library cuts with MP Ed Vaizey, the Government minister responsible for libraries. Julia Donaldson (Children’s Laureate) arranged this and, as a representative of Voices, I will be part of a delegation that includes Julia, Alan Gibbons (children’s author and Campaign For The Book founder) and John Holland (Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries campaigner). I’m currently trying to condense all that Voices For The Library want to put across into a 5 minute slot.
  • Helping plan the Parliamentary lobby/rally on 13th March – got to admit I’m not doing as much as I’d like to with this, as other much closer deadlines keeping popping up.

Activities I tend to do daily with Voices, includes:

  • Keeping an eye on the news, blogs, Government related sites and Twitter for anything of interest and posting it on Twitter. It seems like a bit of a slow news day today for libraries in the UK, but plenty of stories about libraries in Canada and USA! I tend to feed all my news into Google Reader, as I can share it in a variety of ways, but I also use Newsnow.co.uk as well, because that also picks up more news that Google news doesn’t.
  • Adding or writing the odd blog post for the site. (Added one today)
  • Responding to email discussions.
Tuesday (31st Jan)
August 20th 2008 - Inspiration pt3 by Stephen Poff

August 20th 2008 - Inspiration pt3 (c) Stephen Poff/Flickr

Not in the office again today. This time I’m on a half day “Writing for publication” course at CILIP, organised by the LIRG (Library and Information Research Group). I do a lot of library focused writing for this blog, the Voices for The Library blog and on rare occasions for other sites. However, I feel I want to improve/develop this side of myself  and I’ve also got a thought in the back of my mind that I want to do some formal research around public libraries – to put my efforts to wider use. So, this course seemed a good starting place. I was hoping that it would help me write more clearly, get focused and get those ideas written down more quickly, and, as my brain is sometimes like a sieve, I hope that it helps me remember what I’ve written too!

After the course I worked on a Prezi to promote an event for National Libraries Day. Hopefully it will get tweeted a few times by our library service Twitter accounts over the next few days.

I also tweeted a few relevant library news stories and finalised my thoughts for  the meeting around library cuts on Wednesday.

Voices For The Library were also given permission to publish our response to Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s inquiry into library closures on our website today.

Wednesday (1st Feb)

A day’s leave again, but still doing library related work.

Bit of a strange day really – as a representative for Voice For The Library, along with Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson, author and Campaign For The Book founder Alan Gibbons, and Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries campaigner John Holland, I’m going to meet Minister with responsibility for libraries, Ed Vaizey to discuss the mess public libraries are in and if he or Jeremy Hunt ever intend doing anything to sort them out?

I posted two reactions from myself to this meeting.

Here’s my personal “:-O Is this really happening to me?” reaction.

Here’s my professional Voices For The Library blog post.

As I say in the Voices blog post, I hope the meeting made a step in the right direction to sort things out, even if it just seems like a tiny one.

The rest of the day/evening was spent finding/tweeting library related trying to catch up with Voices For The Library emails, etc.

Houses Of Parliament by wendyfairy

Houses Of Parliament (c) wendyfairy/Flickr

Thursday (2nd Feb)

I’m actually back in the office today and I spent the first part of it dealing with emails. These included:

  • Preparation for our library service conference
  • Tying up the loose ends so that we can implement our new public facing catalogue/circulation system. It’s nice a whizzy and I’m particularly excited that it will include RSS feeds for search results! I know that sounds sad, but I really want to mashup some of our catalogue data.
  • Got a thank you for putting together the National Libraries Day event Prezi. 🙂

At lunch time I signed up for “Brighton Lib Teach Meet 2012“, which is “a fun and informal way for librarians and information professionals to share new ideas.” The focus of this event is ‘Outreach, marketing and promotion’. I’ve never been to one of these before, but it sounds a bit like a Library Camp or Mashed Libraries style informal event. It also sounds interesting and I thought I could share some ideas around its focus (especially as Voices stuff crosses over into that area), so I put myself down to give a 5 minute presentation too.

Today was my monthly one-to-one with my line manager. We covered what I’d been working on in the past month and what I need to focus on in the coming month. Mostly e-books; downloadable audio apps; the Arena project (the public catalogue I mentioned earlier); future business plans; and marketing/promoting the library service online in a new way (for us).

I also took the time to fill in the survey for stage 1 of the CILIP Body of Professional Knowledge consultation. When I joined CILIP I wanted to get involved with what was going on, because I feel that if I want the organisation and profession to develop I’ve got to make an effort to get involved. I’ve not had the time to do anything with CILIP groups, but at least I can get involved in other ways and this is one of them.

Friday (3rd Feb)

Before work I put together a short pre-National Libraries Day (Saturday 4th) blog post for the Voices site. It was really just to remind people that N.L.D. was happening, how it came about (a follow on from Save Our Libraries Day last year) and that even though it was a day of celebration of libraries, library services were still under threat.

I spent 99% of my “day-job” today in a meeting with representatives from our library system supplier and our local authority web team ironing out outstanding issues with our new public facing catalogue/circulation system. We got most things sorted out, but it isn’t yet ready to go live. I typed up the log to highlight the outstanding issues and circulated it to those who attended the meeting and the broader contract team.

For the rest of the day (about an hour) I dealt with some emails and was also given another project to think about – an assessment of wi-fi in libraries.

When I got home I had an email discussion about the oral evidence Voices’ Abby Barker will be giving to the Culture, Media & Sport Committee Inquiry into library closures at the beginning of next week.

Saturday (4th Feb)

National Libraries Day logo

National Libraries Day

National Libraries Day. This is what I got up to – a librarithon!

Whilst out and about, being with a couple of techy type librarians, we ended up discussing social media, websites and cuts in relation to libraries… as well as other things.

I tried to retweet what others were saying about National Libraries Day, but the sheer number of tweets made it difficult.

Came back after a couple of drinks in the pub and typed up a blog post about my day.

Sunday (5th Feb)

Retweeted quite a lot of post-National Libraries Day tweets and news. It was great to see so many people getting involved.

I also worked on an article I’m putting together about ifttt.com and how it can be used for information sharing and productivity.

The rest of the month

Other aspects of my role include dealing with cataloguing, classification and EDI issues; assisting in the running of social media workshops for staff; liaising with data suppliers; current awareness of technology and I.T. in libraries.

Even though it hasn’t been a typical week for me –  I generally spend more time in the office and have never had a meeting like the one on Wednesday before – it’s a good example of the variety of work I do.

Thoughts on: Richard Watson “In praise of public libraries – and librarians”

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I came across this post on Richard Watson’s Top Trends blog today: In praise of public libraries – and librarians.

In it, Richard comments on the fact that he predicted the extinction of public libraries some time ago, “because, in an age of e-books and Google who needs them.” and since this prediction he has changed his mind.

“I got it totally wrong. Probably.

Whether or not we will want libraries in the future I cannot say, but I can categorically state we will need them, because libraries aren’t just about the books they contain. Moreover, it is a big mistake, in my view, to confuse the future of books or publishing with the future of public libraries. They are not the same thing.”

His blog post highlights why he believes public libraries will still be relevant in the future.

He emphasises the public library (and public library services) as…

  • A place that is “more than mere facts, information or ‘content’”
  • A social hub
  • An information resource that is accessible to all
  • An ideas hub where…
    • existing ideas are valued,  stored and made freely available to all
    • new ideas are created and developed
    • the right setting is provided to nurture ideas
    • librarians act as a catalyst in helping develop these ideas. They are “sifters, guides and co-creators of human connection.”
  • An information resource where personal/human interaction is an important part of the service
  • An influential method of delivering information – library services are still regarded as trustworthy information sources.

This quote about lack of use by younger generations really appealed to me:

“…admittedly many younger people still see no need to visit a library… But this could be because they still see libraries as spaces full of old books rather than places full of new ideas.”

And in summing up, Richard’s quote makes a clear point.

“There is a considerable amount of discussion at the moment about obesity. The idea that we should watch what we eat or we will end up prematurely dead. But where is the debate about the quality of what and where we read or write? Surely what we put inside our heads – where we create or consume information – is just as important as what we put inside our mouths.”

Monoculture (The Archdruid Report)

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I found this really interesting blog post, “The Twilight of Meaning“, about the impact of reading choices/options upon culture, society and economics. It was written by John Michael Greer, an American Archdruid… so having such a unique perspective on things really caught my attention. It’s a very detailed post, covering the impact upon American politics and America in general, but I wanted to highlight some specific points that hit me, that might also be of interest to other librarians.

The author talks about recently finding a copy of “The White Stag” (published in 1937) in the book sale section of his local library, which leads onto this train of thought…

  • When the author was younger “you could find books that old and much older, plenty of them, in small town public libraries all over the country.”
  • Nowadays, you are more likely to get “movie, toy, and video game tie-ins“. These are “all part of the feedback loop that endlessly recycles the clichés of current popular culture into minds that, in many cases, have never encountered anything else.
  • As a result of this “the threads of our collective memory are coming silently apart.
  • Without a sense of the past and its meaning, without narratives that weave the events of our daily lives into patterns that touch the principles that matter, we lack the essential raw materials of thought, and so our collective reasoning processes, such as they are, spit out the same rehashed nonsolutions over and over again.
  • … the awareness that the lessons of the past have something to teach the present—requires a kind of awareness that’s become very uncommon” and current ineffective solutions are based on “the feedback loop” and this leads to “a mental monoculture“.
  • The result is like taking a loaf of Wonder Bread and spreading something different on every slice, starting with Marmite and ending with motor oil; there are plenty of surface variations, but underneath it’s always the same bland paste.
  • To resolve the situation the author suggests people should “go looking among things that are older than you“. Even if it’s “the pablum of a different time, and will clash with mental habits tuned to the pablum of this time, with useful results.
So, if we don’t want society to make the same mistakes over and over again we need to ensure that these different perspectives remain available and accessible to all – whether it’s the narrative of a fictional work, the ideology of a non-fiction work, or any other work that causes us to think in a different way. They are all valuable in determining what could happen in the future.
I think the following quote from the post sums it up nicely.

The public library in Seattle, to my horror, once put up splashy ads asking, “What if everyone in Seattle read the same book?” Why, then we’d have even more of a mental monoculture than we’ve got already.

The full blog post is definitely worth taking the time to read.

Reblogged: Big Alphy – London Calling

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“When people are ghettoized and marginalised, when education is cut back, when public libraries are shut down, you take away people’s sense of self-worth.  When society decides that some sectors are more worthy of attention than others, people’s sense of self-worth is taken away.  When people are denied the right by under-staffing in schools and local services to better themselves, they see no hope of a better life.  “

(BigAlphy’s Blog, London Calling)

I spotted this in a blog post discussing the role “phoney capitalism” played in causing the London riots. I’m not going to comment on the theory, but just wanted to highlight the recognition of libraries as a means of education and self-improvement for all.

Author Library Partnerships

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I came across Authors For Libraries Partnerships in the USA.

It is “a unique partnership to connect authors with libraries, Friends of the Library groups and library Foundations as well as to keep authors informed about issues and concerns affecting libraries on a national level. 

Seems like a good idea to me. We’ve got so many authors like Philip Pullman, Kate Mosse, Will Self, Michael Rosen, Neil Gaiman defending UK public libraries at the moment in the press, that maybe it’s time to see if a more formal link can be made between the authors and libraries.

Libraries and authors existences  are intertwined, but I’m not sure how much authors know about all of the things that affect libraries. Obviously authors understand that libraries provide a market share for their book distribution, enable book promotion through events and that libraries are an important way of developing literacy skills, but how much do they know about the strategies and local/national politics that affect the provision of library services? From a librarians point of view, I don’t know a lot about the internal politics of publishing, so why should authors know the minutiae ins-and-outs of providing a library service?

So, wouldn’t an author/library partnership scheme be a good way to cross-pollinate the two professions and formally link authors with each public library in the country?

NB: At this point I will click ‘publish’ and within 5 minutes someone will add a comment saying “Oh! That scheme already exists. Here’s the link.” 😉

Ideas from Innovations in Reference Management

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I attended an interesting event a couple of weeks ago – Innovations in Reference Management. The event covered developments in the use of Citation and Bibliographic Management software alongside Virtual Learning Environments. There were presentations from a couple of academic institutions, one about archiving the web and further ones from providers of reference management tools. Details of these presentations can be found at the Open University Telstar blog.

Even though the event was run by The Open University and was aimed at academic institutions, as a librarian working for a Public Library Service I still found it really useful to attend. The common link of education gives an opportunity to pick up ideas that academic institutions have developed and possibly put them in the context of a public library.

The key things I picked up during the event were the use of Virtual Learning Environments, the use of citation/recommender services (similar to social bookmarking tools), and the wealth of open learning tools and courses from the Open University.

Use of Virtual Learning Environments : Academic institutions provide VLE’s for their students. Put simply it allows them to upload content, provide assessment tools (including peer assessment), communicate among students and tutors, and keep track of work, research and resources used in studying. It struck me that public libraries could make use of VLE’s in a less formal way. Many public library users use our libraries to learn in an informal way, via self study – whether it’s picking up a single book to find out the answer to a single question, or making use of a range of printed, audio-visual and online materials for larger projects. If we are providing them with the resources to learn, could we also give them the means to manage their studies by using VLE’s? It could also give them the opportunity to interact with other ‘students’ in a relevant online environment, whether those other students are in the same county or half way across the world.

Citation / Reference Management Tools : The interesting thing for me here was the ability to pull out citation references from different online databases and then integrate this data seamlessly into your own personal resource list, annotating and tagging it as you go. I know some catalogues provide reading list functions, but wouldn’t it be useful if they could allow users to create reading lists from the catalogue, feed it into the reference management tool (allowing users to annotate the items in their reference list) and then feed these references and annotations back into the library system – the information that is fed back into the library system could be used to inform staff purchasing stock / other users about why the stock item was of use and therefore act as a recommendation.

Open Learning Resources : The Open University provides a wide range of online free learning resources for learners and educators, including course texts, self assessment activities, discussion forums, study tools and support, covering a broad range of subject material. In the current climate of tightening financial belts, I wonder if public libraries could treat these courses as another free resource we can direct our library members to? We also run courses in libraries and I wonder how relevant some of this material would be to those courses? The courses themselves could also be a useful/low cost resource for library staff development, as there are some in-depth business and management units/courses available.

So, are these opportunities that public library services could take advantage of, or should we leave this to the academic institutions?