How many things? Only 23.











This thing is all about library careers – how you got into librarianship in the first place (roots), and your library career path (routes). The rue is my own which I added because I think things sound better in threes.

Roots
The roots project wiki website with other library roots stories was down when I was writing this two days ago, but I will look at it later as it’s back again.

View of exterior of Grantown on Spey library

Grantown on Spey library, where it all started. I particularly like the turret.

When I was a wee bairn my Mum would take me to the town library where we lived (Grantown on Spey, Scotland). This summer I went back there and walked past the library but couldn’t go in as it was closed for the afternoon. We left Scotland when I was under two, and I grew up with Leominster public library in Herefordshire. We’d go every week and would get the maximum number of books. Sometimes I would have read them all by the end of the weekend! The lovely staff there allowed my sister and I to progress from the children’s cards (three brown tickets) to the adult’s (six white tickets) when we were still teenagers – it was great to have six books a week each!

When I was under 10 my sister and I played libraries. Yes, I know! My parents made us the slips of paper for the front, and we had a date stamp with red ink. We had a good collection of books and I fondly recall playing libraries. I had no plans for the future at this stage.

Later (much later), I did a week’s work experience in Leominster library. (Do schools still do work experience weeks? I went to the Centre for Alternative Technology for my second one.) And then when I was 17 I got a Saturday library assistant job at Leominster library. My sister had also worked as a Saturday library assistant. I worked there for two years whilst doing my A levels, and I distinctly recall, on my last Saturday before setting off for the dizzy heights of university, one of the staff asking me if I thought I would go into librarianship. Despite enjoying the work I said ‘no’. I can’t remember my reasons, but I didn’t see it as my career. Not that I had any clear career in mind at all!

So, I got my degree, using lots of libraries in the process (I was in Oxford – I frequented at least 6 that I can recall, and I joined the public library) and finished my degree in June with no idea of what I was doing or where I was going. I got a temping job for a bit and then applied and got a library assistant job at Lincoln College library in Oxford. It was a two year post and I enjoyed it. As I wasn’t one of the official graduate trainees in Oxford I didn’t take part in their programme, though my manager did get me onto a couple of the talks. For the second year she managed to persuade those who ran the scheme to allow me to join in fully, so I attended the seminar programme and visits as an imposter and made some friends, some of whom I’m still in touch with. At some point during these two years I must have made a decision to go into librarianship because then I applied to do a master’s degree.

Routes
I completed my Master’s degree in library and information studies at DIS (or, DILS as it was back then) at Aberystwyth University, and then have had a roundabout route to where I am now. I was interested in research and consultancy and one of the lecturers (Prof Hywel Roberts) asked me to be the research assistant on a couple of short-term projects which lasted about 4 months. One was looking at the new establishment of Re:Source in England (remember that? MLA precurser) and if there was scope for a similar organisation overseeing museums, archives and libraries in Wales. And the other was with an inter-library lending scheme in Wales (Cydfenthyca Cymru – Interlending Wales). The significance of these two projects is that I am involved with both of them still, 12/13 years later.*

The research work finished and I then got a part-time job working with the lovely Honno Welsh Women’s Press. Still in the book world. I did marketing, the website, sales data (creating lots of Excel charts!) and other bits and bobs. To make up my hours I also started picking up some part-time research work in DIS for different lecturers. Then, I had a conversation with Hywel Roberts and he suggested I look into research properly and advised doing a PhD. So, I got accepted onto the new Research Training Master’s degree that the department was offering, completed that, and then completed the PhD (under Dr Geraint Evans). I also did a small amount of lecturing in the department as well. I didn’t have a fixed view as to what would happen once the PhD ended, but, one week in the summer as I was writing up the thesis, a job was advertised for CyMAL: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales, a new division of the Welsh Government, that had just been established a year earlier in Aberystwyth. I applied, and got the job. Jobs are relatively rare in Aberystwyth, especially library/book/research related ones, so this was excellent timing.

As of two days ago (21st Sept), I will have been in post, as Libraries Development Adviser, for seven years. This seems remarkable, and slightly strange. Especially as I am now a civil servant and the one job I knew I definitely did NOT want to do was to be like all the other Oxford graduates and go to London and work in the civil service (or management consultancy, finance or other ‘city’ jobs.) Oh how I laughed for the first few months in my job, every time I remembered I was actually working for the government!

Rue
Do I regret anything so far? I miss working in an actual library sometimes, the daily bustle and dealing with all the customers. And I actually miss shelving books. I have had to stop myself when I find myself re-shelving misplaced books in my local library when I’m browsing the shelves.

Sometimes I feel I’m becoming less in touch with what’s important to real librarians. I have thought about doing a week of library visits in Aberystwyth, spending five days with a different librarian each day. I could go to a school library, hospital library, public library, university library and the National Library. All in Aberystwtyth! I would also like to go back to Leominster library and say “Look, I am working in librarianship, sort of. Thanks to getting my library career off to a good start!”

I am aware of the Library Day in the Life project, but have not contributed in the past. Maybe I will if it rolls around again. Although I’m not a librarian in the real sense, it could still be interesting to show what I do as I think there’s some level of uncertainty as to what CyMAL ‘does’ other than award grants.

*The Welsh research led to the establishment of CyMAL. The interlending work I now deal with is with CatCymru and various inter-regional schemes which CyMAL funds. Full circle.



This week’s thing (well, strictly speaking, the thing from a few weeks ago, thing 19), focuses on integrating what we’ve been learning in 23Things and if we’ve been able to integrate this into our work or professional lives.

Stand out things that I have definitely learnt and integrated into my work are: Scoop.it magazine for gathering and re-publishing news on a topic (thing 4) and screencasts (thing 18). With both of those I have now started using them in work. My scoop.it is on e-books and libraries and I am trying to promote that and also wrote a blog post on my use of Scoop.it on my main library work blog.

Learning how to do a screencast was great and perfectly timed with a presentation I was able to deliver via a screencast, saving 9 hours on a train! My screencast is on social media and organisations and I was asked to focus on two particular things. If you’re interested you can watch it here. I also blogged about this in my work blog, trying to raise the profile of this really useful software.

Things I would like to integrate but haven’t found the time yet include citation tools for keeping references of research reports etc (thing 14) , and streamlining my RSS feeds and making a public page for those (thing 4).

And there are some things which I haven’t completed yet but could well become useful to me (filesharing – thing 13 and Prezi – thing 17). I’ve been asked to deliver my usual lecture to the post-graduates in the Department of Information Studies at Aberystwyth University – it would be great to see if I could wow them with a Prezi!

So I feel I’ve gained a few new skills, and updated existing ones (such as blogging, brands, advocacy, networking etc).

Given where I am in my career, and my current job, these ‘learning something specific’ things have been the most useful for me. Some of the more ‘early career’ considerations are slightly less useful, in terms of learning, in that it’s been a wee while since I started in librarianship, although it has been nice to reflect on these matters.



Well, isn’t 23Things fabulous? I needed to make my first ever screencast, and that very week the thing to learn was … screencaptures! Prior to this I had seen a couple of screencasts in the making, and also taken part in a RSC Wales lunchtime bytes webinar on making them, but hadn’t made one myself.

Both Thing18 and the webinar focus on Jing, but Thing18 also mentioned a few others including Screencast-o-matic. The downside of Jing (and some others?) is that it requires downloading and installing, which is not possible where I work. Screencast-o-matic is not only free but also allows you to make your screencast directly, with no installation required (although you can install a version if you wish).

So, the exciting thing is that I made a trial screencast of only 30 seconds, and then I made a full feature length (15mins!) screencast! And I’ll tell you for why. Links are at the bottom of this post – either read the whole thing or skip to the bottom!

The request

I was contacted a few weeks ago by colleagues who run a knowledge information management course for my organisation. The forthcoming module was on communication and they were covering social media and asked if I would be able to give a 15 minute presentation on this, in Cardiff. Now, here’s the thing. I live in Aberystwyth which is 4.5 hours from Cardiff by train – so I would be spending 9 hours on a train (well, 4 trains), for a 15 minute talk! I suggested that this wouldn’t be the most effective use of my time or very sensible and so offered them a screencast instead (at which point I’d never done one before but I sounded confident in the email…!) They agreed and told me the two learning outcomes they wanted me to cover in the 15 minutes.

So then I set to learning how to make one.

Trials & tribulations

The path to making a screencast doesn’t always run smoothly. Screencast-o-Matic requires Java plugins, which aren’t installed on the work desktop so I had to use our non-networked laptop with WiFi. The WiFi kept dropping so I would be in the middle of recording my screencast flicking from website to website and then would have to re-enter the WiFi password every so often. I prefer using Firefox and set up all my websites I was going to visit (Twitter, my blog etc), as tabs in Firefox, only to find that Java plugins had been disabled for that browser on that laptop and I couldn’t find out how to enable them – I looked everywhere! So then I had to open up IE (groan) (but luckily we had two browsers on the laptop), and open up all the tabs again. Oh, I’d also had to send myself an email to my ‘home’ email with my powerpoint slides which I was using as a base for the talk, because we can’t use USB pens in work to transfer files (and I haven’t investigated online storage – I know, that was Thing 13 which I haven’t completed yet).

Anyway, the actual process of making the screencast was fantastically easy and very exciting. I recorded one version just using the inbuilt microphone of the laptop, but my line manager got very excited about it all and the next day brought in a headphone set with microphone and I recorded a second version of my talk. The quality of that version was much better so I would recommend using an external headphone/mic set if you’ve got one.

Having taken part in a webinar on screencasts I knew it was all in the planning. So I had a rough narrative and had already set up my powerpoint slides as a guide. I’m not someone who likes to read a script word for word so each version I made was slightly different in narrative, and in some places you can tell I’ve wandered slightly off track, but it’s not bad!

I haven’t experimented with all the functionality of Screencast-0-matic such as captions and notes, but maybe will do that when I do another one.

Saving the files was relatively easy. I initially saved the talk as an .avi file onto the laptop. However, as I wanted to have an online version I then had to upload my final version into Vimeo as you can’t upload a video into Screencast-o-Matic if you saved it locally and finished the session (closed everything down) and didn’t upload into Screencast-o-matic at that point. I think you can both save it locally and upload it within one session, but not if you have left their website or turned your computer off. I think you also need to create a free account if you want to upload to their site.

From what I recall Screencast-o-matic.com doesn’t have a search facility so you can’t try and find your screencast, you have to use the url link they email you.

I know my presentation screencast is long, but that was the length of the slot they wanted me to do. Luckily 15 mins is also the maximum length of screencast you can do with Screencast-o-matic.com so it was ideal.

Top tips

1. Have either a rough outline of your talk, or a full narrative if you prefer that.
2. Use an external mic/headphone set to record your voice, but don’t have the mic too near to your mouth.
3. Try to keep your screencast to under 5 mins – we have short attention spans theses days, and it also makes it quicker to upload!
4. Check you have all the technical requirements on the computer of choice before starting.
5. Best not to do it when on WiFi unless the connection is very stable and doesn’t keep dropping.

The evidence

Ok, as a reward for reading right to the end (you didn’t skip bits did you?), here’s the 30 second one which I uploaded directly into Screencast-o-matic. And here’s the 15 minute talk on social media and organisations which I uploaded into Vimeo. Feedback welcome.

As you can tell I’m very excited by this and am planning what I can do for my next screencast!

Update – the training session has just taken place and the organiser has emailed to say “feedback was very positive” and “the screencast worked very well as a media channel and think it inspired the trainer to use it for future events”.  Yay!



et cetera