Posts Tagged ‘dospuntocero’
On my research leave, last March, I interviewed several bilingual Coloradan professionals in order to try and uncover how they used information in the workplace. My plan was then to use these findings to drive some of my classes. While the research uncovered some interesting and unique challenges for Spanish information seekers in the US (hopefully to be published soon!), I was more struck by the similarities that I noticed with English language workplace information practices. Call me daft, but I’m always been so focused on teaching students about the differences between English and Spanish research that I had completely forgotten to think about the broader picture. Sure, Spanish researchers may use different tools, and wow, you may want to consider all those regional variations of Spanish when you’re thinking about keywords, but, in essence, what the bilingual Coloradan professionals struggled the most with (even the experienced folk) was similar to English language professionals: information overload, keeping up in the field, and being organised. While I’m in no way negating the importance of Spanish focused instruction, and most importantly, trying to burst that filter bubble of English language privilege for at least 50 minutes, these results got me thinking. So, in the spirit of those unfinished and fairly woolly thoughts (!) this column will be dedicated to a recap and update about digital tools and strategies that could help address these more process oriented information problems.
By far the number one problem for the professionals I interviewed. This probably isn’t news to anyone, including myself since I wrote a column about it back in April 2012. While I still think that being ok with the idea that we’re never going to feel in control of all that information is a major step, it seems that most stress is linked to the need to keep up in the field, as well as being organised.
Keeping up in the field
As a whole, my friendly professionals really disliked trying to keep up, perhaps related to the thought that they felt that they would lose their edge in the market if they ignored it. Psychoanalysis aside, however, there are several tools that I haven’t mentioned before that could help make the process easier. In terms of keeping up with social media, Tweetdeck and Hootsuite are my new favourites. Tweetdeck is limited to Twitter (duh!) but is a simple to use program that lets you track hashtags as well as search words, people and anything else you do on Twitter. Hootsuite has a cute owl logo (what more could you want?!) but most importantly, allows you to keep track all of your social media sites from one place. I know, amazing. From Facebook to Linkedin to Twitter, you can track all updates in one easy to use interface, and it’s free for a basic account. There’s also been a bunch of new tools that allow you to keep track of RSS feeds, or blog updates since the demise of Google reader. Feedly is my current favourite- with a simple to use subscribe and read feature as well as an app. The Old Reader is another good alternative though it is currently in beta testing.
Productivity tools for the workflow
The professionals I worked with were also fairly unorganised- yet didn’t feel they could take the time to try and work out the tools to help them. Like most of us, the situation was complicated by the fact that they had to be able to store or remember different formats of information- from emails to papers to web pages, as well as different types of information, including ideas, lesson plans and works in progress. Since writing the productivity tools column in August 2012, I’ve learned about various new softwares that could help. Scrivener is one of those. It’s been around since 2007 and is continuing to grow in popularity, especially as it combines a word processor with project management tools AND research material storage and organization. Wow. While there is an annual cost it’s super flexible and easy to use. DEVONthink is another one of those tools. While its emphasis is more on information management, rather than writing, like Scrivener, I’m kind of blown away at the different types of file formats that it will store, as well as the search and organization functionality. It’s only available on Mac, sadly, and there is a cost, but it’s an easy to use and very powerful organization tool. A final interesting alternative is Colwiz, a research management tool from the UK. One of the major attractions is the focus on enabling collaboration between researchers, combining project management functionality with research tools such as the ability to create bibliographies and organise PDFs. 2GB of storage is free, and it is available for Mac and PC.
Having said that…
Before you accuse me of just recycling and updating two columns, I think one of the biggest things I have learned from my interviews with professionals is the need to emphasise the process. No tool will solve all a researcher’s problems- and as librarians we need to focus on helping people critically examine their workflow and needs, as well as pushing the shiny technologies. These interviews raise other important questions for librarians too- hey, it wouldn’t be a proper dospuntocero column if I didn’t finish with at least one unanswered question (sorry, Jesus!) In this case, while these are important aspects of Spanish and Latin American professional information needs, how far should we be thinking about incorporating workplace information literacy into our academic programmes? Some of you may remind me that we have more immediate scholarly goals. Others may wonder if I am becoming a bit of a neoliberal in my old age, focusing on a very functional view of education for workforce readiness. But, I can’t help thinking about the Alexandria Proclamation that states that information literacy “lies at the core of lifelong learning.” In addition, all these points also raise the question about whether we as good SALALM-istas, with all the demands on our time, should be focusing on non-specifically Spanish and Latin American information needs, such as helping students combat information overload. As Mr Kipling said, that is another story- though it is one I shall try and write about in my next column
Once a stalwart member of the holy trinity of public services librarianship, reference and the reference desk have, over the last few years, gradually become to be seen as an anachronistic relic of our past. Declining statistics and the idea that sitting “waiting for business” is inefficient and a waste of the professional librarian’s time seem to be the rationale behind many libraries’ decisions to shutter the desk. Yet, as the rise of the catchily named sites such as Quora, Reddit, ChaCha and Google helpouts demonstrate, the need for help or question and answer services has far from disappeared. In fact, as SALALMista, David Nolen points out in his 2010 article, even the anti reference desk movement doesn’t negate the value of human to human interaction. Accordingly, this column will look at some of these new web 2.0 reference type services to explore what makes these work, and how libraries can learn from their experiments.
Briefly, Quora, Reddit, ChaCha and Google helpouts provide different forms of online help. Quora is more of a standard Q&A service where users can pose text based questions, which are stored for future reference. Reddit is more like a cross between a social bookmarking service and news curation or aggregator where users can vote for the best links on a topic. ChaCha and Google helpouts offer more of a personal connection. Questions posed through ChaCha are answered by a series of guides who are paid for their work. Google Helpouts uses the power of video conference to connect students with teachers, who may charge for their services.
The first common feature of all these new services is that they are online and function through a mix of crowdsourcing and expertise. Quora and Reddit offer a searchable bulletin board format, while ChaCha is based around users texting in their questions. Google Helpouts uses video conferencing to connect teacher and student. While, by and large, libraries moved beyond the traditional reference desk to embrace chat and text reference a long time ago, these have kind of been the limit of our online innovations. Various libraries have dabbled with alternatives such as Skype or LibAnswers, or Library DIY but overall our online approaches to reference are a bit clunky still, focused around the librarian as expert model and inversely proportional to the amount of research that happens online. Perhaps this doesn’t matter. Perhaps we want to focus on building our library as destination, and excellent new programs such as Office Hours or Jesus Alonso Regalado’s Librarian with a Latte are meeting our needs. But, judging by examples of people who are already answering each other’s research questions, for example on Foursquare, and the scalability that will probably be involved in educational initiatives of the future, maybe this is should something to which we should be paying more attention.
Another interesting aspect of these tools is their approach to trust and reliability. Quora makes people sign in with their real names (and has some mildly famous users) but people can vote for the answers that are the most helpful or useful. Reddit operates in a similar way though users can also gain link or comment karma for posting particularly popular links. In this way, these sites are reflecting our move from a paper to a networked society, and consequently bigger changes in how we establish authority in the world of Web 2.0. After all, as David Weinberger points out, why we should “trust what one person – with the best of intentions – insists is true when we instead could have a web of evidence, ideas, and argument?” So what has that got to do with librarians, I hear you cry! Surely we’re some of the most trustworthy people on the planet, right? Well yes, but the problem is that fewer and fewer students seem to enter university with a knowledge of what librarians do. In a way, perhaps this is where the biggest disconnect within research services lies. None of these new tools and techniques will help if students don’t trust us as valued members of their research or social networks or if they have no idea that librarians can help them with research questions. In this way, we need to earn the students’ confidence, whether it’s by breaking down barriers, explaining what we do, promoting our services, or wearing blue.
These are just two aspects of the new reference services that stand out to me- and that could affect library reference services. It will be interesting to see if any of these services takes off; ChaCha, especially, was launched to great fanfare, but has been far less visible since then. Most importantly, by highlighting these services I don’t mean to suggest that they form a model we should pursue uncritically. In fact these services may introduce other unknown dynamics, for example, Reddit and other sites which involve voting, have been shown to be far more attractive to male users. More worryingly, if we push to adopt these business models for our educational purposes we run the risk of deprofessionalizing the profession even further. Instead, critical analysis of technologies can help us think constructively about the goals and the future of our services, with no trendy rebrand required.
University of Colorado, Boulder
It’s the beginning of December, the traditional time for the ubiquitous and alliterative review article (“Top Ten Tech Trends of 2012!!!”) that always seem to be slightly too enthusiastic for the pale, twitching, shadow of our former selves that we have become by the end of another crazy year. But even Scrooge (topical seasonal joke high five!) would agree that there is some merit in reflecting, especially when it comes to thinking about learning. So, drawing on the idea of contemplating the old to welcome in the new, I thought I’d try and kickstart 2013 by reflecting on this year’s columns; a meta-column if you will (yep, I haven’t got out much recently…)
So the last column of 2012 will be on professional development. Now wait. I’m envisaging half of you rolling your eyes because you now have 6,387 unread items in your Google Reader, and the other half of you laughing wryly about how you couldn’t even come to the SALALM conference last year. For those of you in the first group, I’m going to be pretty blunt. I know that life is crazy, that the instruction requests keep piling in, there is another weeding project and you’ve been appointed to a new taskforce. BUT this is the single most important thing that we can do as librarians. Just 10 minutes a day of reading or sharing, or heck, even skimming headlines or your RSS reader. That’s all it takes, I promise. For the second group, most of the ideas here are going to be free or low-cost, they just involve a bit of DIY savvy. Whichever group you’re in, it’s vital that we take time for our own lifelong learning. As John Naughton said, disruption is a feature, not a bug. That stable state of yesterday is never coming back, and lifelong learning is a way that we can enhance and adapt our personal and professional lives to meet whatever challenges are thrown at us.
In October I wrote about MOOCs and the role of librarians. The good news is that if there are hundreds of courses that you too can take for free. Some start on a specific date, others are more self-directed, but all offer traditional introductions to a broad range of topics. Looking to brush up on your Spanish? Try Spanish MOOC, starting in January. Carnegie Mellon offers French, MIT offers foreign language courses and there may be a Portuguese course too. What about literature and culture? Coursera offers Fiction of Relationship (featuring Borges!) and Listening to World Music, (featuring the Buena Vista Social Club!) among others. There are thousands of technology based courses, from Udacity’s Intro to Statistics, to Udemy’s classes on Facebook, Photoshop or Excel. Don’t forget the education classes too- try E-learning and digital cultures or Fundamentals of Online Education. More Spanish universities are getting involved too, watch out for offerings from Alicante to La Rioja. There are also several courses out there if you want a more library focused professional development. CPD23 is a UK based initiative that aims to introduce librarians to web 2.0 tools. While the course has finished for 2012, you can still complete the modules at your own pace.
In June, I tried to reassure you about information overload, highlighting the need to rely more on friends and colleagues as recommender systems. This is known as your personal learning network (PLN), because we learn through forging connections and building networks between people and ideas. I won’t mention my number 1 tool for doing this, because you all laugh at my obsession with my blue avian friend whose name begins with T, but it’s a great way of meeting new people and encountering new ideas. Another option is Google communities, which brings us back to February’s column on Google Plus. Yes, Google + still lags behind Facebook, but Team Google is stealthily making it even easier to follow interests, experts and more, all of which are super valuable for maintaining your PLN. Other tips? Take your time, use the tools that work for you, don’t just follow people because everyone does, use the same username across different tools, share, comment and engage as well as lurking- and don’t forget to challenge yourself to think outside your field, which can resemble an echo chamber at times.
Lastly, while I believe people are a key part of learning, productivity tools that help you keep track of literature and more keep getting easier to use. August’s column on productivity tools may help you decide which tools to use, as does the CPD23 programme mentioned above. (so much hyperlinked win in this column!) Other tools I really like are Journal TOCS; (they’ve actually gathered hundreds of new journal issue feeds in one place!) and several new mobile apps such as SoundNote (it records audio as well as your notetaking or drawings!) and Zite or Flipboard (create magazines out of your RSS feeds!).
So, professional development. In 2013 it’s all about the people, the free online courses, and the magic 10 minutes a day. I did fail to work April’s column about Impact Factors in. And there were quite a few exclamation marks. Nonetheless, I didn’t try and make some random and arbitrary predictions for 2013, another feature of end of year articles, so count yourself lucky Happy Holidays!
University of Colorado, Boulder
alison.hicks @ colorado.edu
Twitter! Oh, that’s disappointing. That’s the place where you tell people about your lunch, right? Isn’t it a bit 2007? Well yes, Twitter has been around since 2007. And yes, there are a lot of lunch tweets. But Twitter just keeps getting better and better- and the uses of Twitter for research, outreach, analytics and more keeps growing. So this column will provide a quick recap of Twitter before exploring how Twitter is a major tool for librarians.
In a nutshell, Twitter is a program that allows you to send, read and receive short messages of 140 characters. Using Twitter, you can stay updated on new information from a variety of sources, as well as tracking opinions, trends and moods. And, with more and more people ditching blogs and RSS feeds in favour of Twitter, you can even just use Twitter to receive information without having to actually tweet messages yourself. Since being the biggest RSS evangelist in SALALM, I’m now almost 100% converted to the superior power of Twitter. For me, the benefits of being able to search real time information, as well as easy subscription and deleting of feeds and the sense of community quickly outweighed the occasional lunch posts, making this one of my professional tools of choice.
Outreach is one of the most obvious ways that libraries are using Twitter. Event promotion, resource promotion, service promotion; all great ways to share your message through another channel. Tie in promotion with news- when a book prize winner is announced, let patrons know they can check that work out from your library, for example. Twitter is a two way street though- and it’s an easy way to start engaging more with patrons too. Want feedback on furniture, events or student interest? Try polls.tw to launch a quick poll of your followers. Want to introduce yourself (or new study areas etc) to students? Upload a photo/video and blurb to Twitpic.com and tweet it to your followers. Want to know what people are saying about your library? Set up a search on your library’s name, or use the advanced search to set up a search for the word “library” near your town’s name. Reply to positive and negative comments about your library and start building the online community. It’s another great feedback mechanism too- last year my library gathered all the negative comments and used them to push for more study tables. Not enough time in the day to tweet? Try Twuffer.com to schedule your tweets in advance.
Twitter can be used for collection development too; many publishers are also on Twitter- and messages tend to be less annoying than the ones that clutter up inboxes. Try @DUKEpress, @EBSCOPublishing, @JSTOR and @LNAcademic for a start. Twitter can also be used as a great way to circumvent the big publishers too; use the powerful search to find small or independent publishers in fields you are interested in. A couple of hours research will enable you to embed yourself in the world of key people who are writing on a topic within Twitter- look at who they follow, the links they send out and join in the conversation- it’s amazing what you can find. You can also set up Twitter alerts on keywords that you are interested in using Tweetbeep or grab the RSS feed of a Twitter search to embed in a Libguide box: simply replace the word feminism here with they keyword you want to search on: http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q=feminism
Finally, don’t forget uses for research. Twitter is almost synonymous with keeping up with current news, but Hashtags, Icerocket and Monitter will allow you to search the Twitter archive for historical tweets. The Twitter advanced search will allow you to track tweets between people while We follow and Twellow allow you to search for the most influential/popular people on Twitter related to a keyword eg Argentina, Cartonera. Trendsmap will allow you to search by country for news, trends and people. These tools are perfect for following or researching topics related to public health, politics, sports, and sociology among others, as well as for getting to know key tweeters on a topic and then following links that way.
Twitter is awesome! You can still use most of these tools without an account so give it a go, whether it’s lunchtime or not…
I will be posting a new post here soon- guess what the topic is?!
Underused and neglected, subject guides seem to struggle to pull their weight in today’s library. Students rarely seem to know that they exist, while pages are either outdated or barely touch the surface of potential online and library resources. Notwithstanding, subject guides often remain the only web presence that bibliographers have in the tightly controlled library website. Furthermore, this page may be one of the only contacts the digital native student has with the library.
2.0 subject guides still fulfill their original purpose of pointing students in the direction of resources but they expand the potential of the subject guide by creating a dynamic learning community. By providing a one stop shop for easily accessible research resources, the subject guide serves as a complete community or subject hub. This helps students become immersed and grounded within their subject, making their research more relevant and thereby directly contributing to academic learning objectives.
Many different tools are used to create subject guides in libraries; LibGuides from Springshare are a popular choice, while other libraries have gone with blogs and wikis, or stuck with plain html. Whatever the format, this column aims to provide ideas to jazz up research guides and convert static subject guides into dynamic learning communities.
According to Jakob Nielsen, most people take under 1 second to decide whether to stay on a webpage or not. Most web page visits last 2-4 minutes. Therefore, if we want to ensure patrons use our subject guides, it is important that they are attractive (clear, easy to use) and have enough easily accessible content to make them stay there- and to return. Furthermore, it is important to remember that patrons come looking for answers, not tools. While a list of useful tools make the librarian happy, the same list can be off putting and overwhelming to patrons who have no idea how or where to start. So how can we include useful academic content in a visually attractive way that inspires students to use our resources?
One simple way is to embed widgets into the subject guide. A widget is a chunk of code that you can easily paste into your page and which provides a dynamic link back to an original resource. A widget is usually a tool that can be used directly from your page, for example a search box for a database. Widgets break up the text on a page and mean that students can find and use resources straightaway rather than following endless links to the library’s main page. Furthermore, a search box is a familiar option that implies immediate results; an attractive option for students!
Widgets are starting to become more and more frequent. They already exist for many Spanish and Portuguese databases, including ones housed through Proquest and Ebsco. Redalyc and JSTOR among others are also in on the action. Widgets also include tools that students might need during their research. Oxford Language Dictionaries Online or Wordreference both provide code for dictionary widget search boxes. Including easy access to tools that students use in their research not only makes your page look more thoughtful and user friendly but it also contributes to the learning community feel of the subject guide and encourages use of academic tools.
Videos and video tutorials are also prime candidates to embed on your webpage. Many libraries are uploading video tutorials directly to Youtube, Google video or other video sharing websites. These videos are easy to embed on your web page; simply cut and paste the code on the right of the video. On the other hand, it may be easier to produce your own video tutorial. Jing, free screencasting software, is a very simple and user friendly way to record five minute videos. It also automatically uploads and provides the embedding code for your video. For videos that don’t provide embedding code, here is a quick tutorial.
If you can copy and paste, you can embed a widget. And, if you are using Libguides, it is even easier to embed these tools. Widgetify your life!
The next column will include more ideas to transform your subject guide.
University of Colorado, Boulder
Alison.Hicks @ colorado.edu
This first appeared in the October 2009 issue of SALALM newsletter, as part of the web 2.0 column. Please contact alison.hicks @ colorado.edu for more information.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: RSS is the most useful tool in the web 2.0 world. If you only have time to play with one tool, make it RSS. If you’re already using RSS to keep up with your favourite blogs, cartoons and cake wrecks, it’s time you considered using it for collection development too. What is RSS? RSS (Real Simple Syndication) is used to receive automatic updates from a web page. An RSS feed is simply a list of new information that appears on a website. New material is automatically gathered into one place in a feed reader, arranged to be read, skimmed or saved for later, in one format that is easy to save or send by e-mail. Content updates exist for websites, blogs, searches – everything! For more information, see the ‘RSS in Plain English’ video.
Keeping abreast of contemporary fiction is a challenge, particularly for a new librarian when it is published a foreign country. Media outlets do not always pick up new and first-time authors until they win an award and furthermore, it is becoming hard to rely on published book reviews. Owing to the economic crisis in traditional journalism, many newspapers are cutting Literary Editor positions and reducing the number of book reviews (as demonstrated by Library Journal’s initial decision to close Críticas, for example.) At the same time, a new breed of book reviewer had emerged – the literary blogger. Although many decry the rise of the ‘over-opinionated and under-qualified dilettante’, literary bloggers often provide an alternative viewpoint, picking up on many titles and authors that are ignored by the major publishing houses’ marketing.
One of the central tenets of Web 2.0 is the facilitation of communication, using the Web as a two-way conversation rather than solely as an information provider. While we are extremely lucky to be able to rely on the specialized knowledge of the SALALM libreros, librarians also need to take advantage of this paradigm shift. Subscribing to personal blogs, small-scale literary magazines and newsletters through RSS means that the Internet can be used to develop a wider knowledge of recent publications as well as a barometer to gauge cultural and literary developments from within a country.
A good place to start finding literary information is to scour regular, foreign and speciality (such as Technorati, Blogalaxia, Blogazos) search engines for literary blogs. Search for key authors, literature prizes or recent literary news to find relevant bloggers. Most bloggers also provide links to the blogs that they read, which can be mined for further examples. Other sources of information include literary-prize websites, newsletters, literary associations, journals and magazines. Recently, book review aggregators have sprung up, which can make keeping up to date even more efficient. (Culture Critic, Complete Review.) I subscribe to around 20-30 sources, which gives me insight into formal and informal literary developments in the country in question without becoming overloaded. Obviously, a certain number of articles hold no interest for me, or overlap with others, but it is easy to skim through articles, and the inevitable overlap assures me that enough bases are being covered.
I channel these feeds into one super feed through Yahoo! Pipes. For more information about how to set up a yahoo pipe, please see my mini tutorial. Look at my sources here.
University of Colorado, Boulder