#DrinkingAboutPreservation – First MeetUp


Image from British Library Flickr

I’m dusting off my rather-neglected blog to post details of the Drinking About Preservation meetup on Tuesday 18th February 2014, start time of 6:30-7pm. The venue will be The Harrison a pub just south of Kings Cross in the Bloomsbury district of Central London, who are happy to accommodate 25+ digital preservation people! Click on the link for directions + map.

The idea grew out of a Twitter conversation (thanks to @mopennock for the push I needed to take it into real life!) . I put up a Doodle poll and realised that there were lots of people keen to meet up informally and chat about digital preservation. Thanks to @nataliafay who, as one of the organisers of  London Open Drinks (meeting at the same pub on 11th Feb) tipped me off to a good central venue for our first meetup.

If you registered interest but are unable to attend, there will hopefully be other meetups in the future (if this one works out!!) that you’ll be able to come along to. If you’re interested but not in London, watch this space as there was interest in possible venues outside London for similar events at some point.

If you’d like to come along but missed the poll, please feel free to come along. We should, hopefully, have a section of the pub to ourselves, and will be the crowd comparing checksums and talking OAIS in the corner 😉

I’ll blog after the event too, so check back to see how it went and for news on if we will be doing it again.

Here’s to raising a beer/cocktail/cup of tea to digital preservation soon 🙂


Live Tweeting – Go With The Flow


Photo from the Library of Congress on Flickr – no known copyright/licensing restrictions.

Live tweeting of sessions during an event can be really useful both for delegates who are there in real life and for those people who are interested in following the session but can’t make it to the event. I’ve done a few sessions, and thought it might be useful to share what I’ve learned.

For successful tweeting, I’ve found it useful to remember that Twitter is a conversation. If you’re tweeting a session, you need to provide information about what is happening, but also be prepared to read and respond to incoming tweets.

Most importantly, the job of tweeting a session really is a job.  If you want to capture and tweet a session,  make this the main thing you will be doing. It’s too distracting to try and tweet as well as chair or have any other role in the session. If you’re actually speaking at any point, it’s definitely not something to do  –  you will be much too distracted to follow what’s going on!

If there are parallel sessions, hopefully each session will have a hashtag that is specific to that session and not just the main event. This saves a lot of time as it means everyone can clearly identify the session within the event. If  all sessions use the same event hashtag, things can get very confusing. Check with the organisers to be sure you know the session hashtag. If there isn’t one already, suggest a simple one that can be used and make people aware of it.

For example, the main conference tag for the Internet Librarian International conference in 2012 was #ili2012 . Each session could be identified with the project/session name hastag – e.g. the session on Project Scarlet used #scarlet (original I know!). This meant easy identification when tweeting, as each tweet had the tag #ili2012 and #scarlet. Some events have a single hashtag for a session. Using the Project Scarlet example again, this could be #iliscarlet. Just remember to use the official hashtag as the organisers will probably have designed a convention that works for them when archiving and saving tweets.

Start by tweeting the name of the event and link to the event information. Make sure to include the event hashtag in this opening tweet. Follow up with a brief intro to the session you are covering, giving the event hashtag and the session hashtag. Let everyone who follows you and/or is following the event know that you will be tweeting the session. People can then follow your tweets, knowing what to expect. If the speaker or speakers have Twitter accounts, find out their Twitter names ahead of time, so you can give both their proper name and Twitter name when they start speaking. Of course, check that they are OK with this information being sent out – most people will be, but best to make sure. If there is more than one speaker at the session, remember to introduce each one with a tweet so people know who is now talking and which presentation you are tweeting about. It can be useful to tweet a link to any further information about each speaker, such as a biography, blog or other online presence.

When tweeting a session, aim to summarise sections of a talk rather than try and replicate word for word. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, but with practice, you can get in the rhythm. If, like me, you have a tendency to over-tweet,  write your initial impressions as notes elsewhere. Then read back and summarise your notes into the 140 characters for your tweets.

Watch out for any links to online resources mentioned by the speaker. These are useful to tweet, so people can read some background and/or further information around the session topic. Links to things such as a project blog or website, journal articles/papers and current reports are useful for all of your audience – both those in the room (for later reference) and those who aren’t there in person. If the speaker has made the presentation available online before the talk, have the link ready to tweet so people not at the session can follow too.

Remember to check incoming tweets that are tweeted at you for questions and comments. Also check the tweets using both the conference and session hashtags as some people may comment on the session without tweeting directly at you.  Some comments could be worthy of a re-tweet if they are making useful points, adding to the discussion or asking a question. Questions can also be asked by you at the end of a talk (or during, depending on how formal the session is) on behalf of others. Discuss this with the speaker ahead of the session to make them aware you will do this. Make sure you tweet the answers back to the questioner, tagged with the session hashtag so everyone can follow the conversation.

Finally, don’t forget to tweet followup information such as a link to the speaker’s presentation if this wasn’t already available. Many events put slides up after a talk, so the link may not be available during or immediately after a session. If this is the case, it’s an important step to completing a useful live-tweeting session by making sure this link is available. Again, make sure it is tagged with both the session and event hash tags and the speaker’s name.

The first time you tweet a session, be prepared to feel overwhelmed! You will be trying to process and condense a lot of information from the speakers and audience. You will also be trying to open tabs to find and check links, keep an eye on other tweets and generally keep going at a very fast pace. You will make mistakes. You will miss some things. It’s not the end of the world. With practice, you will find you quickly improve. And you’ll find there’s nothing like a thankyou from someone who followed your tweets for making you want to do it all over again 🙂

On Not Attending A Workshop


Photo of Scott Brander  of CiA & St Andrews introducing the workshop, via @jamestoon (who *did* attend the workshop).

On Friday, I didn’t attend the CERIF In Action workshop on transferring research data to RCUK and other organisations. I wanted to attend, but work, time, funds etc. etc. conspired against me. I really did want to know what was happening in this area, though, so I tried to follow the day via Twitter. I’ve done this before and it has been OK,  but it was a busy day on Friday, full of small distractions like phone calls, deadlines and the usual things that keep me from the serious business of reading and tweeting. I caught enough to grab my interest, but not enough to really get a flavour of what was going on.

So I mused over tea and cakes (Friday afternoon treat, it’s not the highlife here every afternoon) about how I might be able to be able to time travel and attend the workshop on another day. And I thought about Storify. What if I took the Twitter timeline for the event, added it to Storify, then embellished it with links and further info? Would that be useful?

So I tried – here is it.

It’s a work in progress as there are still blog posts to be added once they are published. And I may continue to add links and information after that, as I read around the subject.

It wasn’t as good as being there and having tea and cake with repo friends. But I have information, some notes, some chat and links to follow.  Not a bad deal for time travelling, and a sketchier but still useful enough version of the notes I would’ve taken away from the day.

Thanks to all the people who tweeted from the workshop under the #cerifinaction hashtag

DIY Library Camp

What’s the most important thing to get right in organising your own Library Camp is the cake!

Running a small Camp is easy – Leeds was around 70 people. You need –

  • Eventbright account to deal wit bookings
  • Wiki to put up directions & pre-event info, but don’t need much
  • Don’t need much funding, anyone can blag a free room
  • be prepared to write a short report for any sponsors (e,g, place that you blagged the room from)
  • Cake

You don’t need to do too much for the small ones. They can be very rewarding to both run and take part in. Can be anything you want, within your means/what you can blag.

Potential problem is with it being free as sometimes people sign up because it’s free then don’t turn up as they haven’t paid for it. This is less of a problem with smaller, more local events. This also keeps the cost down so that people such as library students and lower earners can afford to attend – the bigger events with travelling and possibly accommodation costs involved can be prohibitively expensive even with free places.

Smaller events can have impact as they are local, so you can get local links and also increase your professional network. Great point made by library school students who wanted to organise their own more practical event for experience and to talk about in job interviews. They realised even just the act of organising the event was a great practical experience. Your local CILIP branch may help with sponsorship, maybe for room and/or refreshments – it’s worth asking.

Suggested alternative to ‘Cake Camp’ – savoury ‘Pie Camp’. Heretical?! Or sensible alternative? On the question of food, for smaller local events, there was a practical suggestion that participants bring their own food, which would mean no catering hassles in advance and also no danger of over catering and associated costs. In addition, any food allergies and preferences will naturally be taken into account.

You don’t need any permission to run Library Camp. The current organisers are happy, though, to share their experiences and and advice they can give to newby organisers via Twitter.

From one organiser – “If I can do it, anyone can!” is a great thing to take away from the session.

Librarians Without Libraries – Library Camp UK

Another ‘blogging at speed’ disclaimer – This post is an attempt to capture some of the discussion that took place during a session at Library Camp UK. I hope I haven’t mis-represented anything that was said and I know I have definitely missed out some important points! Feel free to add info and thoughts via the comments. Views are not necessarily mine, except where indicated, but my attempt to show what we talked about as a group and the points people made. Now on with the post…

This session looked at how librarians manage when they don’t have a physical library building, and/or when they don’t usually deal with the people who use their services on a face-to-face basis. First up was the whole question of being invisible. Information services now rely so much on online resources, many librarians now find themselves managing electronic resources and dealing with queries via email, online chat and phone. Even when dealing with physical objects, the enquiries and responses may take place in the non-physical realm. This can create the problem of both the librarian, and the library/information services being ‘invisible’ to the user.

This generated a number of potential problems, summarised as –

  • Staff being invisible and forgotten even when their service is well used
  • Potential users not being aware of specific services that are available to them
  • The library/information services being seen as irrelevant by senior management, as they don’t occupy a designated physical space within the organisation
  • Branding – the work and resources of the service not being easily identified by users and senior management

There were a number of useful suggestions from the group to address these problems –

  • Clear online branding of all resources provided by the service
  • Identifying users who could advocate the services among their colleagues, e.g. in each department of an organisation, and act as a champion for the services
  • ‘Popup libraries’- using the hot desking idea that all you would need to provide the services are the internet, a laptop and a mobile phone, go and sit alongside users/groups of users and provide support in person so they get to know you and see how the services fit in with their needs.

The whole question of ‘what is a library?’ quickly came to the fore. There was general agreement that the building/physical space is not the service, but a general concern that for users, the library building is the way they identify the service. There as an interesting discussion about whether the word ‘library’ is a useful one or not. Against the term was the need to educate users about new types of information services that do now rely solely on printed books – here library was felt to be an old-fashioned term with associations that weren’t helpful in describing the work of the modern librarian. For was the general understanding that many users have of the term, that they woud know the kind of services they could expect (and/or we could educate them on the newer services and resources available) and that people in general see ‘library’ as having positive connotations and associations. The discussion expanded out onto Twitter, and I *think* the consensus was that we the term is a good one, all be it with the rider of user education on the newer stuff we do.

The session was a really positive session, despite the problem of being invisible, being ignored and being overlooked for funding! The ‘unseen librarian’ is often providing the latest services and dealing with new technologies and resources, and as such is a great group to keep an eye on, I think.



#uklibchat in RL!

First, my ‘blogging at speed’ disclaimer – This post is an attempt to capture some of the discussion that took place during a session at Library Camp UK. I hope I haven’t mis-represented anything that was said and I know I have definitely missed out some important points! Feel free to add info and thoughts via the comments. Views are not necessarily mine, except where indicated, but my attempt to show what we talked about as a group and the points people made. Now on with the post…

I’ve participated in some #uklibchat sessions on Twitter. These can be great – a place online where you can chat, using the hash tag, about a pre-set topic. More details about the usual, online,  process are available via the uklibchat blog. So it was interesting to see how the popular Twitter chat sessions translated into Real Life at Library Camp.

I enjoyed the session, and it was nice to actually see people as we talked. But I kind of missed the side chat on Twitter, and also missed the slower speed required of my brain when I can look back over what has been said! The original idea was to include ‘people who couldn’t be with us today’ via Twitter, but a slightly dodgy network made this tricky, which was a shame.

Career progression was the first item. It was quite frustrating to find that most library sectors seem to have the same slow career progressions and that is seems always to be hard to get on. Basically, waiting for people to retire seems most common/best option, which is a bit depressing!

Finding out about jobs brought up useful alternatives for job searching, including someone who got a job via a tweet! TES, CILIP etc were the main source. Agencies were not so well used, but some people find that they were sent unsuitable jobs, for example in the wrong location etc. Time spent in getting set up with an agency can be an issue, but may be a good investment. Temporary jobs via agencies seem most common and ost successful, although these can be useful if they are for a longer period of time – e.g. 9-12 months.

The next question was “Chartership- is this important?”. Many people made that point that other people (including senior maanagers) in libraries don’t know what this is. It also raised the interesting question of continued CILIP membership. If you are no longer a member of CILIP, how do you deal with chartership on your CV? Some people have mentioned it as a previous experience, which seemed fair to me, but it was seen as misleading on the CV by an interviewer and candidate was marked down. Although I could see why the person on the selection panel felt this way, I had mixed feelings. CILIP membership isn’t cheap, and may be unaffordable for someone who is out of work. However, this is probably the time you need to be showing off your chartership credentials. A potential vicious loop, I’m afraid.

PGCert seen as very valuable in Higher Education sector, possibly having more value than chartership? Comment made that this is not better/worse but different, as chartership is seen as affiliation with professional body not a qualification as such.

An interesting question was “What skills do you think your employer wants, and how might this be changing?”. Customer care/customer-facing skills were universally the most sought after currently. For public librarians, customer-facing skills plus ability to work with children seem to be a killer combination.

Academic libraries – another big push on customer services skills. Linked fee-paying students and their expectations. This has always been at the heart of the academic library, but improvements are very keenly sought. The expectations of fee-paying students is really making this the biggest single issue.

The accessibility of the library and specialist knowledge plus a deep understanding of the needs of users is what makes a good library service, and the most sought after skills are the ones that support this kind of approach. Flexibility and being able to turn your hand to anything are the most useful skills for smaller libraries/library & information services. In a small team, such as a special or private sector library, everyone needs to be able to do everything.

An interesting question next, “Are technical skills important?” Yes, as so many services are online. This has potential for promotion, to be able to deal with technical skills. The main thing is how to apply/use/teach the skills of using technology rather than the technical creation of things. Also, the skills of being able to brief a technical person are very valuable. However, being able to actually code or fix a broken system, useful though they are, are probably not essential or looked for skills in librarians from employers – they have other specialist staff to work in this area.

The subdued mood of the session wasquestioned – is it just early in the day, or are people actually negative about their careers? This comment, made tongue in cheek, was greeted with some positive comments and enthusiasm. An afternoon session was pitched at this point, on where librarians want to be in ten years time. Stress is felt, though – you can’t compromise on quality of your work, also have to be willing to move. Is the library sector dying as a profession? We need to ask about the future and what we THINK the librarian role will be. We need to define this and fight for this!

The point was made that librarians ARE the knowledge society that everyone seems to think is so fundamental to the national success. Anger at what is happening in public libraries is common, but this doesn’t mean librarianship is a dying profession. There may be more and more ‘librarians’ in many roles, using the key skills and at the heart of the economy.

The frustration of an employer being incredibly specific in their requirements and thus seeming to negate your valuable experience and qualifications was a shared experience within the group, common in every sector. There can seem to be a terrifying amount of competition for every job. This can be harshest at entry level jobs, where huge amounts of candidates can go for library assistant posts, many of who will be qualified librarians. This can be tough when trying to enter the profession or when moving across sectors. On the other side, if you apply for a library assistant job when qualified, you may well not get an interview as you’re over qualified. This makes it hard to stay in work and/or move sectors.

However, on the whole librarianship, tough as it is on the application front, is not *as* bad as many other industries – e.g. the music industry.

It was an interesting session, and I’m looking forward to the next online chat where I can keep getting my regular fix of  library chat tweets.

Less Talk, More Action – Non-Digital Hack Day

Photo of Lego library counter by tzhaya via Flickr, used with thanks, under CC license.

Today I cam across an idea via Twitter that got me really excited. I’ve attended a few hack days and conferences in the recently with a mix of developers and library types. I have had some great conversations, and also, with developers, been part of helping them to build tools that non-technical information professionals would find useful. I’ve always been secretly envious of developers, though.

Developers make stuff. So they can go to a day event and come away, maybe, with a finished product. Or the rough outline of something that didn’t exist before that day. It’s not that I don’t come away from events with great ideas, or that I don’t value and enjoy discussions with colleagues at conferences and un-conferences. But sometimes I’d like to come away with something a bit more tangible, like the developers do.

Well, maybe I can…

During a teabreak, I noticed a tweet from @LibraryCamp about the latest additions to the Library Camp session proposals on their wiki, so I hopped over to check them out. One from Andrew Walsh (@andywalsh999) really got me excited! Andrew was suggesting people getting together to discuss Non-Digital Hack Day. What? How? When and Where?

Here’s how Andrew explained it –

“… in the run up to it people pick what areas they’d like to talk about, then self-organise into groups on the day, spend an hour discussing a “challenge” on that topic they’d like to discuss, then during the rest of the day they have to produce a practical “thing” to take away. This might be a plan and outline promotional materials for promoting ebooks, a rough & ready game (see my suggestion above) to play in their libraries, or who knows what else… IT people do Hack Days where they may create a piece of software – this would be a non-digital version!”

I really love this idea! It takes the best bits of an un-conference for me – the ideas, the discussions, the dynamic of being in a group – and gives them all a practical tweak. So I’ll be heading off to this session at Library Camp for sure. I’d really like to take  part in a Non-Digital Hack Day at a later date. Just think, all that energy, all those ideas, all the good group stuff, focussed into an end result. Library and information professionals as makers – genius!

Library Camp will be taking place on 13th October 2012 in Birmingham, UK, with full details on the Library Camp Wiki. If you want to follow on Twitter, the pre-discussions and tweets on the day will be using the hash tag #LibCampUK12

Repo Knitters & Conference Crafting

Photo by Freddycat1 used, with thanks, under CC.

The Open Repositories conference is one of the main conferences of the year for me. It’s also very busy and very crowded. It can get a little stressful trying to cram in seeing everyone I want to see, checking out everything I want to hear about and telling anyone who shows the slightest interest about the  projects I have been working on.

Sarah knitting as I take a break between rounds to eat soup.

A couple of weeks before, I asked on Twitter if there were any knitters attending the conference. I got a great response, and we finally decided on a Wednesday lunchtime meetup at the Kilimanjaro Coffee Shop. In the end, four of us made it, with a couple of rows of knitting being done! We chatted, swapped tips, admired yarn and had a proper break – something that is rare at a full-on conference.(Thanks to Jane for permission oto use the photo.) As well as the people who actually came along, tweeting about knitting at the conference got me into a lot of interesting conversations.  Not just with knitters but with all kinds of crafters who have a day job in the repository world. I chatted in breaks about embroidery, spinning, dressmaking, plushies… it was fantastic  to see this other side of the people I work with 🙂

Which set me thinking…

I find that I tend to suffer a kind of mental shutdown at conferences. There’s too much to take in at once. Because of the get-it-before-it-goes nature of a conference, I stress that the people, the ideas, the buzz will all vanish if I don’t grab it all quickly, now,now, NOW! And then my brain overloads (and I might tweet too much) until even coffee doesn’t help anymore. An hour out for a  proper break on Wednesday lunchtime, knitting and chatting about other things, felt as good as a snooze! I was refreshed, inspired and ready to talk repos far into the night. (Yes, I was the person still enthusiastically talking about the DataFlow project at 10.45pm!)

So, would it help others? Could we have a crafting/making space set aside at conferences? A kind of chill-out zone where making stuff is allowed, where you could go to switch off your aching brain and engage your inner-crafter for half an hour or more? Would people use it? Could we encourage new crafters? Could we encourage creativity in one new area and have this inspire the whole conference? I’d like to try – wondering if anyone would join in? This kind of thing would find a natural home at an un-conference, and that would be cool. But I’d love to try it out at a big, more formal conference because I suspect that’s where we might need it most!

Thanks to the repo Twitter knitters at OR2012 –  Jane Smith Sarah Molloy & Helen Kenna for the knitting and the company 🙂 For anyone who is interested in what I knit, check out my Ravelry profile – or ask to see at the next conference we both attend 😉

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings…

I had no idea you could tweet too much. I had no idea you could get banned from Twitter. Turns out you can. Who knew?

I found out the hard way, as I was busy tweeting a workshop during the OR2012 conference. It had been going so well. We had a few technical difficulties at the start of the session, meaning that the first speaker had to give his talk without slides. No problem – as the official tweeter, I tweeted the links he had planned on using, along with the workshop hashtag. Delegates followed the tag and opened the links on their laptops. The talk continued with everyone following via the links. I continued to tweet. We had around seven of eight speakers during the afternoon. The sessions were intense and interesting. I tweeted summaries, links to project sites, links to papers mentioned by speakers. I was in my stride, on fire, riding the wave of information like the ultimate workshop surfer!

Then, during the fifth talk,  disaster struck. I couldn’t tweet. I got an error message. I didn’t understand it. I tried to tweet again. And again. I tried tweeting in a different client. I tried tweeting via the native Twitter site. No success. I tried to breath deeply and finally read the message. It said…  “User is over daily status update limit.” I passed the tweeting over to a colleague and started trying to work out what had happened.

Apparently there is a daily limit not only for updates, but for direct messaging and following. For updates, the limit is a thousand tweets. Although I tweet a lot, and on that day I had tweeted more than usual, there was no WAY I had anything even close to a thousand. Not even including my knitting, cocktails, chocolate and shoe tweets as well as my workshop coverage. The devil, as ever, was in the detail.

According to Twitter guidelines, “The daily update limit is further broken down into smaller limits for semi-hourly intervals.” And,  “Retweets are counted as updates.”.  In short, I had tweeted and re-tweeted too much in a “semi-hourly interval”. The penalty was swift and severe. Banned. Thrown into outer darkness. There was no reprieve. I just had to do my time. Around 11.30pm that night, after being banned since about 4pm, I was able to tweet again. The world was no longer isolated! It was a long, lonely few hours.

On the upside, my sudden silence, followed by a brief explanation from a colleague on my ban,  hit the main conference Twitter stream.  I might’ve been unable to tweet, but I was famous! At the social event that evening, everyone was pointing out the woman who had been banned from Twitter. I enjoyed my brief notoriety but, having done my time, I learned my lesson. My tweets will be more moderate in volume if not in content from now on.


DataFlow Developers Success in the OR12 Developer Challenge

Left to right – Ben O’Steen, Mahendra Mahey of DevCSI, Richard Jones

The DataFlow project is very much about development, so it’s not surprising that two of the entries for the Developer Challenge at the OR12 conference where from members of the development team, Ben O’Steen and Richard Jones, both of Cottage Labs.

Ben worked on an idea that originated with Cameron Neylon of the Science & Technology Facilities Council and developed Is This Research Readable?. The idea was to develop a service that checks whether published articles are actually able to be read. Based on DOIs, the service will check a DOI to see whether the article is available and readable or is, in fact, hidden behind a paywall.  The full pitch and proof of concept are now available. Contact Ben and Cameron via Twitter.

Richard worked with Mark MacGillivray (also of Cottage Labs) on SWORD IT! a javascript widget that a researcher could easily embedded in their own web pages. Once in place, the widget would automatically track the repository deposits of the researcher, providing useful statistics and other information. Their demo showed the basics and described how they would develop it further. You can watch Mark describe the idea in more detail, and check out their work so far. Contact Richard and Mark on Twitter.

Photo by zaleary, via Flickr.