How many things? Only 23.

{June 30, 2012}   Organising myself (Thing 8)

Ok, so I’m behind, but I’ll catch up. Thing 8 is Google calendar, addressing the issue of ‘organising tools’. Now, I like to think I’m quite an organised person (this statement is not contradicted by my first sentence, by the way. There are mitigating reasons why I’m behind. I may be behind but I’m still organised), and I have my own ways of keeping track of dates, events, meetings, birthdays, jobs to do etc, at home and at work.

I’m also discovering during this 23Things process that I’m quite different in work and at home.

In work we use MS Outlook for email so we have a shared calendar function within that. Anyone in work can see my calendar and I put all my meetings in it and annual leave, and times when I’m finishing early or starting later due to a dentist/optician appointment at 9am or something. I find the shared calendar function useful for checking when other colleagues are around so that we can plan a meeting date and really useful if someone rings up and asks for a colleague and you can check if they’re away, in a meeting etc. So there’s no need for Google calendar in my present job.

I also use Outlook’s ‘task’ function to record all the jobs (big and small) that I need to do in work. This is a really useful tool and I use it all the time. Yes, I have many tasks in the red (overdue), but it’s easy to change the date on them so they’re not overdue for a bit longer! I remove the ‘alert’ function though as I don’t like all the pop up boxes telling me a task is overdue. I know it’s overdue, ok? (Again, having overdue tasks does not contradict my first sentence of the blog post – I just have a very busy job and not enough hours, like most people!). So, I don’t really need Google calendar for that either.

I also use a small hard-back diary – yes, those old fashioned things. I like it. A lot. It combines my work things, and my home things. As I can’t access my work calendar at home (ok, ok, so, if I used Google calendar I could, but, I would still have to use Outlook calendar in work so that my colleagues could see my work things and duplicating entries would be double the work – update, partner pointed out should be able to sync Outlook to Google through Exchange but as work lock down many settings I’m not convinced) I need to be able to look on Sunday night and see that on Monday I have a 9am meeting at XX.

My hard-back diary also has birthdays in so I can remember when to send people a card, and it records my other things like yoga classes, other exercise classes, holidays etc. And has phone numbers and 2013 calendar for planning ahead. I really can’t see me getting rid of it any time soon. I don’t want to have to turn on a computer just to check where I am tomorrow morning, or what’s happening next weekend. No technology or energy needed just to open my diary.

I also don’t have a smartphone (or any sort of mobile phone), so wouldn’t benefit from the Google thing linking into other apps (or something – I stopped reading what Google said it can do with your iphone thingy). And again, don’t see the need to turn on an electronic device just to check a date of something. Open the paper diary, find the event.

For tasks/job list at home, I have an ongoing little pad with all the jobs written down (yes, I like lists). Some of them have been there for a long time (e.g. the list of sewing jobs), but I can see at a glance what jobs need doing at home. Like writing a blog post. Weeding the garden. Renewing the insurance. No need for an electronic device, just pen and paper. Works a treat.

I sound like a total Luddite at home, but the system works for me.

[Update – ok, it’s been pointed out by my partner that I also have two paper calendars on the walls that record things that could go in an electronic system. Yes, they could, but I’m given calendars as presents so use them for ‘household’ things like the recycling date and our organic fruit/veg box delivery.]

[And, I’ve just remembered an instance where I tried an electronic online system for my tasks at home, using one of the widgets in Netvibes, but I stopped after a few weeks and went back to paper. ]

The one instance where I can see an online shared calendar being useful is on a joint project I work on with two sets of external partners totalling about six people in three locations. We’re looking into some shared project management software and if we have a shared calendar in there it will be useful so we can see who’s off, who’s in (two/three people are p/t) etc.

The recommended link to a blog post about the ways libraries are using Google calendar is good – there are some good examples and I’m not dismissing Google calendar totally, it’s just not for me in work or at home. Pah.

{June 24, 2012}   Real-life networks (Thing 7)

Thing 7 is all about real-life networks and professional bodies/organisations. Formal library networks or organisations can and do provide benefits for librarians helping them improve their skills, meet people, network, update their knowledge etc. Currently I obtain those benefits from the job role I am in as Libraries Development Adviser for Wales (in CyMAL part of the Welsh Government).

I am contacted by librarians because part of my job is ‘advice and support’ which includes things like answering general queries to overseeing project grants, enabling me to be in contact with a large number of librarians across Wales. I am often invited to meetings, either for projects that we have funded or to give a CyMAL-based talk, so again I get to meet people and network at the meetings. We (CyMAL) also provide funding for training (individually, regionally and nationally) and I am able to attend the CyMAL-run training programme if I wish.

My employer is actually pretty good at employee training and development and I am able to attend training they provide. Each person has an agreed training plan as part of their annual performance management plan and if the training need has been identified, then we are able to look for and attend a relevant course (funding allowing of course).

As part of my job I also get to attend the CILIP Wales annual conference, and additionally sometimes attend conferences outside of Wales, such as the CILIPS conference in Dundee the other week (which I’ll be blogging about on my library blog when I catch up with myself). I haven’t been able to attend the WHELF Gregynog colloquium for a couple of years now, but I try to attend that conference because I find it is a really good way of picking up on what’s going on in the HE sector, and catching up with friendly librarians! I also try to attend the FE LRS Managers Network meetings which are held roughly every 4 months or so and again, that’s a great way to network and hear about what’s happening in the FE college libraries in Wales.

The notes on Thing 7 also outlined the opportunities of writing articles if you’re a member of an organisation, and again, I’m lucky that in my job role I’m sometimes invited to write articles (or guest blog posts – thanks Sharon!), or I’m able to offer one with an all-Wales perspective, such as the recent issue of Ariadne and my article on social media and Welsh libraries. I’m also invited each year to give a couple of guest lectures to undergraduates and postgraduates in the Department of Information Studies at Aberystwyth University (my alma mater, but more of that in a future Thing I think.)

Belonging to a network group or professional library organisation can also give you the opportunity to chair meetings, become secretary or treasurer, or organise events. Again, I’m really lucky that my current job gives me all those opportunities and I chair various meetings (including the Libraries Inspire Advisory Group), take minutes for other meetings, and manage the Libraries Inspire budget (just under £1 million – eek!).

And finally a mention must be made of the real network of librarian friends I have who date back to 1998/99 when we met on the library masters course at Aberystwyth. We still seek each other’s help and advice on library matters, we occasionally see each other at library events (even though we’re now spread across England, Scotland and Wales), and we also meet up socially, generally at weddings!

Being in Aberystwyth I find it easier to network virtually, and have joined LISNPN as a result of the last Thing.

If you’ve read this far, you’ll spot the elephant in the room. I wrote all the above a few days ago and have been reflecting on it (aren’t I good?) since then, prior to publishing it. I think I come across as a slightly stuck-up ‘I don’t need you’ anti professional library groups individual! But I’m not going to re-write it!

It comes across like that because I was seeing if I could write this without admitting that I’m not a member of CILIP. I feel that some people would expect me to be a member because of my relatively public-facing (public as in librarian) role. But for me personally I haven’t been convinced of the benefits of CILIP membership given the high membership fee, my location, my current job role, and my current career aspirations. I find other ways to obtain the same benefits (as outlined above). I don’t doubt that getting invoved in CILIP committees or sub-groups is very useful and helpful for some library staff depending on where they live and what they’re doing with their job and career, but for me, right now, it’s not something that I want to spend £194 a year on.

In contrast to that fee, my professional membership for the British Wheel of Yoga is £70 a year as a yoga teacher which gives me a quarterly magazine, a quarterly regional (Wales) newsletter, a free annual yoga day event in Wales, cheaper attendance at BWY yoga events, a network of Welsh and UK yoga teachers, potential to be on the Wales committee or to be a county rep, teachers’ discount for the BWY shop, and, very importantly, my public liability and professional indemnity insurance. I think that’s good value.

{June 7, 2012}   Online networks (Thing 6)

Ok, I’m going to start with two confessions:

  1. I’m on LinkedIn but I’m not really sure why, and I know I’m not using it to my advantage.
  2. I’m not on Facebook. Well, ok, I have a deactivated Facebook account. For various reasons, (to save this from turning into a rant I’ll write the short version), I decided to deactivate it several years ago. However, various friends now seem to use Facebook as their only form of communication and I have to resort to peering over my partner’s shoulders to sneak a look at some of their updates, to mutterings of ‘Get your own account’. I feel that there may come a time when I cave in and go back on Facebook. You can tell I’m approaching this with a positive attitude can’t you?

So on to the task in hand: online networks.

I joined this a year ago, or it may have been two years ago. At the time I didn’t have a clear reason why I joined, and I still don’t now. I haven’t really actively gone looking for people I know, and I rarely make connection requests.

I can see its advantages in making connections, having a good professional image as a freelance worker, keeping up with contacts etc, but as I’m neither currently looking for a different job nor am I a freelance worker, it feels less relevant to me. I don’t learn new things on there or pick up links to stuff like I do with my professional use of Twitter.

But to get into the spirit of things and see if I could improve my use of it, I followed the links in the 23Things blog post on this. I’d already joined the 23Things Group in LinkedIn but unfortunately the discussions page seems to be dominated (totally overrun) by one person posting irrelevant American job adverts (WordPress doesn’t like my screenshot of this.) Isn’t there a separate page for jobs? These can hardly be classed as ‘discussions’. Perhaps I just caught it on a bad day.

I also looked at some of the other people recommended in the blog post, but I didn’t feel their profiles were particularly ‘stand-out’, suggesting that I’m doing ok with my profile itself. Although some of them have a staggering number of connections. And are members of an immense number of groups. And have recommendations.

I think one problem with my profile is that it’s not 100% library work as I put my yoga work in the profile as well, so it’s part library, part yoga. I also set it up at home and it’s not tied to my current job. If I change jobs, the account comes with me. That may not be the same for some of the other social media channels I use. And it’s also linked to my blogs, and I can’t remember if it’s linked to my Twitter account. So my updates alternate from library blog posts to yoga ones and back again… . Is this confusing for anyone?

I also have a slight problem with people I don’t know making connection requests. I don’t know them, have never met them, sometimes I’ve never even communicated with them in any way (email, Twitter etc). I feel put in an awkward position of either ignoring their request or falsely agreeing and then looking like I know this person. I amended my profile to say I generally wouldn’t accept requests from people I hadn’t had some form of contact with. Am I out of touch with how things are done?

Having also read some of the suggested links about making the most of LinkedIn including this infographic and article from 2009 (when there were nearly 50 million users on LinkedIn – now there’s over 100 million members) I realise there is more I could do with LinkedIn.

I could include my publications list, which means updating my CV on my computer to start with. I could also take more part in discussions – I have contributed to one or two so far. I could also more actively look for, and connect to, other people I know on LinkedIn. However, when I look at the suggested names that come up I think ‘Yes, I know them’, but I can’t see why I would connect to them. I just haven’t grasped it yet. Maybe I’m not very good at socialising.

Which leads nicely into Facebook!

I’ve just spent a merry 15 minutes on the Orkney Library and Archive page – I can see the benefits to a library service of being on Facebook, and in fact in my work I try to help library staff get access to social media channels.

My stumbling block is being on Facebook for myself in a personal capacity. When I was on Facebook originally I locked down my security settings as much as I could, but I gather the privacy settings are often changed, without you knowing. And at the risk of sounding like a fuddy-duddy, I do find the new timeline display very confusing… .

I don’t have a problem being visible and communicating in a professional network, but am not sure that my personal life needs to exist in an online medium. Yes, I like looking at other people’s pictures in Facebook, and sometimes I know I miss out on pieces of information about friends because I’m not on Facebook, but currently those two things are not enough to convince me to re-join.

A friend I know has a personal Facebook account and her yoga class (as a group?) – maybe the latter is the way to go for me, as a starter? This is one Thing I’m going to have to ponder for longer. I need to make sure I join for the right reasons, and have a clear strategy if I do go on there (in a professional yoga capacity).
Other networks
Well, after all that I’m a bit worn out! But onto the remaining online networks. I knew about LISNPN, although I wasn’t sure if I was a member. So I joined. Although to be honest, I wasn’t impressed that it forced me to include a birthday in order to register. So I made one up. And then I couldn’t go any further with the site as the confirmation email went to work and I’m writing this at home. Oh well! Something to look forward to later. I follow LISNPN on Twitter already.

I’m not strictly speaking a librarian, and I don’t do any teaching, so the Librarian as Teacher Network isn’t really relevant for me; the CILIP Communities website was down when I looked, and I’ve not got a Google account so can’t look at Google+.

In terms of other networks I find useful, the best one in Wales for librarians remains the LIS-WALES JISCmail list.

Update: 22/6/12 – Read this interesting blog post about why be on LinkedIn and its benefits. The summary paragraph is pretty accurate I think.

I’ve taken longer to get round to Thing 5 (Reflecting), partly because I was busy in work but also because I didn’t know what to write. I could easily write a list of what I’ve learnt so far, but it wouldn’t be very reflective. I know I am a reflective practitioner in work (for example, after meetings which I chair I often reflect on how it went, whether it was useful for people, what was achieved by the meeting, how it could be better next time etc) but applying it to 23Things is taking me longer.

So I’ll start with what I do know! On the ‘skills learnt’ front I have learnt how to make a magazine issue, with my first one being on e-books and libraries. ‘So what?’ is the reflective practitioner’s cry. Well, I can see how it will be useful for me to use this for current awareness, not only for linking to my library blog, but also as a ‘library current awareness’ service for librarians in Wales. It also has potential in my workplace to be used by the other sectors (museums and archives) and through feedback on the first issue I made I have discovered that library staff can access the site even if other social media channels are blocked where they work. This again suggests it could be a useful way of reaching librarians in Wales – an important part of my job. I shall definitely be applying this learning to my job in the future.

Other 23Thing things so far have covered personal online brand, RSS feeds, Twitter and blogging. I haven’t learnt new skills with these things as I already use them, but it has reminded me again that I really must sort out my library RSS feeds in Netvibes.

I have enjoyed all the tasks so far, although I have not put as much time into looking at the blogs of other CPD23Thing participants as I should have. I thought I might use Thing 5 week to do that, but we’re now already into Thing 6… .

I’m comfortable with having a visible online presence, and I’m comfortable with putting my thoughts down ‘on paper’ (as it were) on the ol’ interweb , having been blogging in a library capacity and a yoga capacity for a year now.

I have struggled a little bit with the time taken to complete each Thing and have spent free time at home on it as well. But, as it’s for my personal learning and development I feel it’s ok for some of the time to be my time and not all work time. It’s more akin to doing a study course than attending a day’s training course in work time.

I’m also learning what I like about other people’s blogs. For me to want to follow a library blog I do prefer to see at least a name of the person, a picture if possible (of them, not a cat, cute though cats are), some contact details and to know more about them than some of the CPD23Things bloggers reveal. I find it hard to comment or like a blog post when I don’t even know the person’s name.

I also have found some of the blog posts to be quite short – for me, to do justice to each Thing I’ve found myself writing quite a lot. Maybe I’m just a verbose waffler. I’ve also found the most useful blogs to be the ones that link to something else.

This all helps me think about MY blogs – are they helpful? Do I provide enough links for people to follow up on things? Do I have enough information about me easily available? This may reflect an element of my job role which is advice and support to librarians in Wales – if I want library staff in Wales to feel they can approach me I believe they need to see who I am, get a feel for what I’m like through my online presence, and have various ways of contacting me. I also like to be useful and helpful – I am, at heart, a librarian.

I’ve learnt that I’m also still addicted to checking my site stats… .

UPDATE – after writing the above I then spent well over an hour looking at other CPD23Things blogs, starting with Wales again. It’s a shame that quite a few are already behind on Thing 2 or 3.  And I’m still struggling with the lack of names. Maybe this reflects more on me than them – I’m in a relatively ‘public’ profile in my job, but other people may not be.

et cetera