#Mozfest fun

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I attended Mozfest last Sunday — what a great event. There was so many sessions covering a wide variety of tech related topics, but I actually only attended one session apart from the session I ran with Stella Wisdom. I spent an hour building circuits with copper wire, sticky LEDs, battery, paper and pens — at the end of which I had a dragon whose eyes glowed when you pressed its belly button.

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Explore Mozillafestival’s photos on Flickr. Mozillafestival has uploaded 2082 photos to Flickr.www.flickr.com

This session was a great example of where creativity and technology overlapped, and its something that would be perfect for a library Makerspace session. In fact there were lots of sessions in the Youthzone and beyond that would be perfect for a makerspace session. Plenty of Raspberry Pi sessions too, quite a few being run by children and young people. Even though I didn’t attend many sessions I spent most of my time talking to other attendees about what they were doing there, sharing ideas and also about what we are doing in Surrey Libraries in relation to this sort of activity.

The session Stella and I ran went well — it was focused on introducing people to interactive fiction, and was a bit of a lighting fast approach. A short intro to interactive fiction (including examples and a quick read through of a handful of Choose your own adventure books), plus about 20 minutes hands-on with Twine and Squiffy — free software you can use to create interactive fiction with. The age range of the attendees was from about 7 to mid-30s, and we had positive feedback at the end of it. One of the interesting things for me was that attendees raised the potential of using the software for things like interactive video storyboarding and simple app development, as both Squiffy and Twine output stories as html and Javascript.

If anyone’s interested in how we organised the session and notes we used,here’s a link to the handouts, simple session plan and example stories created in both Squiffy and Twine.

Thanks to the YouthZone organisers, particularly Dorine Flies for encouraging me to get involved. It was well worth it.

(This was originally posted on Medium)

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#BardJam – a literary game jam writing challenge for April

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Following on from last year’s Alice Jam 150 (an Alice in Wonderland themed game jam) I was itching to run another online game jam. So, the Shakespeare themed Bard Jam has been set up and will run throughout April. As Read Watch Play online book discussion theme for April is #BardRead and because The British Library and Game City also have a theme of Shakespeare for their Off The Map competition I thought it would be a nice idea to tie a writing related jam into other related things running at the same time. The game jam this time is focused solely on text based games, and can include interactive fiction, text adventures and any other text based digital story. Full details of #BardJam can be found here.

Let’s Make & Inspire: Techy Creation in Libraries

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My library service is currently exploring the idea of making in libraries – specifically on the technological side of things – 3D printing, robotics, electronics, programming/coding.

We’ve run a couple of code clubs and have plans to run more. As well as this we are running our first Maker Day event this coming Saturday, with the help of Carlos Iszak, who I met at the City Mash event last summer. Carlos will be coming in with his Maker Cart kit and people will get the chance to try out 3D printing, paper cutting technology, robotics and electronics. We are also encouraging those attending to share ideas they have about making with technology, things they’ve made and their experiences around digital making in general. I’m really excited about this event and I’ll be helping out with the robotics and electronics side of things – Arduino, Makey Makey, Littlebits. It’s a hands-on event and we want to give people the chance to explore these new technologies for themselves.

The library service long term ambitions are to host a makerspace: “a place where people can meet to collaborate, create, learn, and innovate, using similar technologies to those available during our day of making.”

As well as this Maker Day event there are also 2 other events related to makerspaces in public libraries happening over the next couple of months in London that are worth attending if you’re working in libraries and want to find out more about makerspaces.

Making Library Makers: an intro (16th Feb, evening) – Carlos is also involved in this.

Code Green Digital Making & Learning Showcase (1st March, all day)

And finally, I wanted to share one of my favourite maker stories – one that’s especially relevant to libraries too. 14 year old William Kamkwamba’s electricity generating windmill in Malawi.

 

 

#CityMash 1 – #MashLib Always fun and always useful

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I attended #CityMash at City University yesterday. It was a Mashed Libraries unconference. Mashed Libraries events focus on the sharing of ideas about technology in libraries, and whenever I attend one it is always fun and it is always useful. Yesterday’s event was no exception.

The day was split up into short 1 hour sessions, with generally more than 1 session running at a time. Some of them were practical how-to sessions, others were discussions.

Here’s a brief run-down of the sessions I attended.

UX for the Win! (Andrew Preater & Karine Larose): This was a practical session focused on a specific methodology of interviewing users about their use of a library system (specifically the search functionality and identifying useful resources), identifying key themes that occur and making use of that information to develop the system. Once I’d got my head around the concept I could see that this would be a useful tool for developing my own library service catalogue.

So you want to be a systems librarian? (Anna Brynolf): This session focused on Anna’s experience of becoming and being a systems librarian. Even though my job focus doesn’t lie in that direction it was interesting to listen to, and it opened up the discussion about routes to becoming a systems librarian and the changing focus of systems librarians over the years, as well as how this role might develop in future in different types of libraries.

Death and burlesque (Matt Finch): This session focused more on the creative side of libraries and related themes eg reading, literacy, community and collaboration. Matt talked about his work with libraries throughout the world. Things like Zombie fights in the library; short stories on coffee cups; @FunPalaces initiatives (ie getting the public in to make creative responses about library, museum and archive collections); collaborations between libraries and book shops on comic store day; wine-tasting sessions in a library, including a discussion via the web with the wine-maker. I have to say Matt shared so many ideas that I just thought “Wow! We should be doing this in our library service.”

Maker Cart (Carlos Iszak): Makerspaces in libraries is an idea that has been around for a few years now. It gives people the opportunity to create, learn and develop skills collaboratively – this might involve things like building robots, developing IT skills using creative and fun tools, 3D printing. The Maker cart concept fits in with the idea that some libraries might want to run makerspaces, but don’t have the space or financial resources to do this. The Maker cart is a set of resources on a small trolley that contains kit for I suppose the equivalent of a pop up makerspace, along with resource books to help people create/make things. I really like the idea of being able to set aside space in a library as a temporary makerspace, encourage people to come in and then you just wheel out the maker cart and away you go.

I also ran a session on using games for digital storytelling and am really pleased with the feedback I received a bout it – there’ll be another blog post about that after this one.

As well as attending the sessions, it’s great to be able to share ideas with others who attended and I always feel there is a great buzz at a Mashed library event – lots of people making new connections and getting inspired by it all.

I spoke to Owen Stephens while there – he came up with the idea of the first Mashed Library event – and I was reflecting on the fact that if I hadn’t been to my first Mashed Library event in 2009 (I think) I wouldn’t be doing half the things I’m doing now in both my day job and my life outside of work. Mashed Libraries actually gave me the confidence to get out and do stuff instead of just thinking about doing it…. Mashed Libraries, you have a lot to answer for. 🙂

A Focus on Community at the IFLA Public Library Futures conference

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The presentations and papers from IFLA’s Public Libraries conference 2014 held in Birmingham (August 2014) are now freely available online.

I didn’t attend all of the conference, so was pleased I could catch up with the presentations, as the tweeting over the two days it was held in August made it sound like some interesting and practical ideas were being covered.

Out of all the papers available, I thought the following were particularly interesting. I’ve copied the abstracts from the papers themselves.

Multimedia, creativity and new ways of learning: Vaikky, the new mobile library in Espoo, Finland

Välkky is a Mobile Library in Espoo, Finland, a city in the municipality area of Helsinki. The bus includes, among books and other lending material, interactive media technology such as ipads, a video projector and a screen and a big touch screen table. The space can easily be changed according to use. The mobile library Välkky, which started operating in the spring of 2013, is part of the so called Outreach services of Espoo library. These services are two mobile libraries, the other bus Helmi being a more traditional mobile library operating mostly in the afternoons and evenings, the home library , one small hospital library and the Espoo library logistics section. In the mornings the Mobile library Välkky visits schools and daycare centers as a modern children´s library. In the afternoons and evenings Välkky can be changed to a bus for different groups of children and adults, functioning as a writer´s bus, a movie theater, a multimedia workshop, a meeting place for a book club or a handicraft group.

Breaking down barriers between physical and virtual spaces in public libraries: leading practices in Guandong Province of China

The future of public libraries seems foreseeable through leading practices in Guangdong Province, of which the economy development is first ranked and Internet popularity third ranked nationwide. In new buildings, computers are placed in traditional reading rooms together with print collections. On websites, virtual visitors are able to enjoy lectures or exhibitions happening in physical spaces. In Microblog or WeChat communities, netizens not visiting library websites can also be informed. We find that barriers between physical and virtual spaces have been broken down; most of the resources and activities could be accessed by users inside or outside the library.

Let’s tear down the wall between physical and digital: ZLB Topic Room

The Topic Room of the Central and Regional Library of Berlin (ZLB) presents interdisciplinary material from the library’s collection concerned with a certain topical or cultural issue on a monthly basis. In order to cover current topics online information is integrated into the presentation of physical media via the ZLB Topic Room Application on iPads and a Twitter wall. The ZLB Topic Room is a project in which the ZLB cooperates with many different partners.

Bexar County BiblioTech – Bringing the library to the public

BiblioTech Digital Library is the first all-digital public library in the United States, located in Bexar County, Texas. Since the doors of the first branch opened on September 14th, 2013, BiblioTech has actively worked to bridge literacy and technology gaps in San Antonio and surrounding areas by establishing a community presence at the physical locations as well as an online presence through the digital collections and resources. (Taken from www.http://bexarbibliotech.org/)

Community building for public libraries in the 21st century: examples from The Netherlands

Community building is high on the agenda of the public library sector at this moment.
However, there is a lack of innovative examples of community building in the practice of
public libraries. In this article, we focus on two famous Dutch examples of innovative
community building in public libraries. The first example is The Stalwart Readers, a
community of readers, in Dutch called ‘Lezers van Stavast’, guided by librarian Hans van
Duijnhoven. The Stalwart Readers is not a traditional book club, but a community of
readers around a collection of (non-fiction) books selected by the librarian. Every
member is expected to read every week one book (but choice is free: not everyone reads
the same book). Once a month the group comes together and discusses the themes in
the books. The project started in September 2012 and lasted for one year. However,
because of the very positive evaluations by the group members, the community still
comes together. One of the innovative elements of the Stalwart Readers is the fact that
the community also looks outside the boundaries of the library; together, they visit
lectures or theatre plays if there is a relation with the themes in the books. The
community is an example of an innovative way of highlighting the library collection and
providing context around it.

The second example of an innovative public library community is a community formed
around a project called ‘Wisdom in times of crisis’, guided by librarian Marina Polderman.
Unemployed people came together for a period of seven months in 2013, to talk about the values for the 21st century as proposed by philosopher Alain de Botton in his manifest “10 virtues for the modern age” (2013). These values were linked to the library collection and people were asked to link stories to these values and discuss them together. This community shows the library in the 21st century as a place for good conservation.

The main thing that came through with many of these papers was the sense of community linked to these library services, and how those communities cut across both the physical and virtual worlds. In some cases those communities were already in existence, but in others the libraries helped build a community through the services, resources and activities it provided.

 

RFID Considerations for Libraries

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As Technical Librarian I need to keep on top of what is happening in the world of library related RFID. I subscribe to a couple of RFID library discussion lists (UK focus; North American focus) to keep up with activities in other libraries, but we’re also very fortunate in UK libraries, as Mick Fortune has a very informative and supplier neutral site/blog focused on library RFID. On it he raises issues that I hadn’t always considered.

Recently Mick has highlighted a few RFID ideas/issues/points that will be useful to any library service using or thinking of using RFID, and I thought I’d summarise them here and encourage people to follow them up. 

Worldwide RFID in libraries survey

Key points include:

  • The survey covered libraries from all sectors (eg public; academic; school; health), but the highest response was from public libraries. About 200 public library services in the UK use RFID, but not necessarily for all of their stock or all of their libraries.
  • Self-service is still the dominant reason for using RFID, but theft prevention, collection management, access control and acquisition functions also figure highly.
  • Only a small number of respondents used NFC smart-phone or tablet enabled devices. This technology can allow users devices to be used as scanners/readers. Increasing numbers of NFC devices may lead to increased RFID related apps in future.
  • Most respondents use RFID for books, but also CDs/DVDs, Journals, Music scores, laptops (as well as other stock).
  • Most libraries still buy their tags from their RFID supplier, as they did before the agreement of RFID data standards, but buying direct from the manufacturer would give higher savings.
  • ISO 28560-2 is the most popular data standard ie what information is included on the tag.
  • The majority of libraries with RFID use HF (High Frequency) systems, as opposed to UHF (Ultra high frequency).
  • The majority of RFID systems are still relying on SIP to communicate with the LMS, but SIP wasn’t created to work with RFID and therefore has its limitations. SIP allows for the use of extensions to add further functionality. However since the extensions aren’t regulated/standardised they would not migrate well to another RFID system. The newer Library Communications Framework aims to overcome these problems.

The detailed survey responses are very useful (and frank) and identify how libraries use RFID, how they are getting on with it and issues they may be having. It is also a very useful pointer for anyone considering implementing RFID.

BIC guidance on NFC (Near Field Communication)

This document highlights potential issues with NFC – “smartphones equipped with NFC can now read and write data to and from almost all the RFID tags used in the world’s libraries.”. Issues of concern around this technology focus on digital vandalism (ie altering data on the tags), stock theft and data locking.

E.U. Directive on RFID privacy

This expects libraries using RFID to display signs indicating the fact, so that people are aware it is in use in the library. The library would also be expected to undertake a Privacy Impact Assessment to produce a Privacy Impact Statement that would be accessible by anyone who wanted to read it.

If you have any responsibility for RFID or data security I’d recommend you go and read the articles and survey results on Mick’s blog if you haven’t already done so.

Creating a CPD or Work Log Using ifttt

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As well as using ifttt to share information to various social networks I also find it very useful for building up a personal work/continuing professional development log, which I use to record work I’ve undertaken and work events or training I’ve attended.

The main ifttt channels I use as triggers for this are LinkedIn, Google Calendar, Diigo and RSS feeds. I feed information from those channel triggers into a spreadsheet in Google Drive, and use the Evernote channel as a backup.

Here’s a bit more detail about each of those channels and how I use them:

LinkedIn – I post work related status updates here, such as “Running ebook training sessions for staff today.” etc. After the ifttt Twitter triggers stopped working I decided that I would use LinkedIn more for posting work updates instead, as it’s a professional network and it makes sense to provide updates there about what I was working on/involved with. I use both the LinkedIn status update and link update triggers to catch everything I post to my LinkedIn account.

Google Calendar – I record all of my work related meetings and events in Google Calendar, marking them with a tag “sccwork”. I set up an ifttt trigger to look for events containing this tag, so that personal/social events aren’t pulled through.

Diigo – I bookmark web links to web pages focusing on work I’ve been involved in or anywhere I’ve commented on a news article or blog post with the tags “mywork” and “mycomments”. I set up 2 triggers to identify any new bookmarks I’ve added with either of these 2 tags.

RSS feeds – I have a trigger that identifies if I’ve written a new blog post on this site.

As for the responses to these triggers, I have a “Personal Log” spreadsheet set up in Google Drive and also a “GGSCCWork” notebook setup in Evernote. Whenever one of the above channel triggers is activated a new row is added to the spreadsheet and a new note is created in Evernote and the information from the trigger channel is pulled through into both of them. I tried to standardise how the information is pulled through. For example, the first column of the spreadsheet contains the date the LinkedIn status update was posted, the Calendar event happened, the blog post was created, or the Diigo bookmark was saved. The second column contains the text of the LinkedIn status update, details of the calendar event, blog post title, Diigo bookmark description.

As I used many of these channels already for recording my work it made sense for me to re-use this information and pull all this activity together in one place. I find it especially useful as a reminder of what I’ve been working on, particularly when I have one-to-ones and appraisals with my line manager.