Snowy Stockholm and Nordic Librarians!

Picture from Twitter
Picture from Twitter @Micha2508

Last week I attended Elsevier’s Nordic Library Connect event in Stockholm, Sweden. I presented the metrics poster / card and slide set that I researched for Elsevier already. It’s a great poster but the entire set of metrics take some digesting. Presenting them all as slides in around 30 minutes was not my best idea, even for an audience of librarians! The poster itself was popular though, as it is useful to keep on the wall somewhere to refer to, to refresh your knowledge of certain metrics:

https://libraryconnect.elsevier.com/sites/default/files/ELS_LC_metrics_poster_V2.0_researcher_2016.pdf

I reflected after my talk that I should probably have chosen a few of the metrics to present, and then added more information and context, such as screen captures of where to find these metrics in the wild. It was a very useful experience, not least because it gave me this idea, but also because I got to meet some lovely folks who work in libraries in the Scandinavian countries.

UPDATE 23 Nov 2016: now you can watch a video of my talk (or one of the others) online.

I met these guys... but also real people!
I met these guys… but also real people!

I particularly valued a presentation from fellow speaker, Oliver Renn of ETH, Zurich. He has obviously built up a fantastic relationship with the departments that his library serves. I thought that the menus he offered were inspired. These are explained in the magazine that he also produces for his departments: see p8 of this 2015 edition.

See tweets from the event by clicking on the hashtag in this tweet:

 

Keeping up with academic library themes

Working mostly from home, I don’t talk to colleagues as often as I used to. Also, being freelance, I don’t have as much opportunity to attend training sessions and conferences as I used to have, but nevertheless, it’s important for me to keep in touch with developments in my discipline and improve my skills, just like Siobhan O’Dwyer described in the case of early career researchers. There are some sources that I particularly value for keeping me informed and up to date, which I wanted to highlight here:

  1. For keeping researchers and their needs in mind, good lunchtime entertainment: Radio 4’s Inside Science and The Life Scientific.
  2. BrightTALK channels: I like to listen to these whilst doing other stuff, and if they’re really good then I tune in and look at the slides too!
  3. Email lists & newsletters: Jiscmail for the UK and the ALA for the US. Daily digests help to keep it manageable to follow these. I also get a regular roundup of news from ResearchInformation.
  4. Blogs: I especially like dipping into the Scholarly Kitchen, RetractionWatch, LSE’s Impact of Social Sciences, Nature blogs and lately, Danny Kingsley of the University of Cambridge. The easiest way to follow such blogs? Twitter feeds!
  5. Twitter: I like to keep an eye on the following hashtags: #ecrchat, #uklibchat, #librarians #altmetrics #OA and recent discovery: #publishinginsights  Actually, I’ve been collecting academic hashtags along with colleagues from piirus.ac.uk, so if you want more then take a look!
  6. A MOOC? I did one MOOC module recently and blogged about it for my regular client, piirus. It was my first MOOC and it’s not an investment of time to be underestimated, but very much worthwhile. If you’re looking for one to suit you, then the platform for the one I did was edX, and you can find lots of courses on their site.

Finally, and this does count as a learning experience (honest!): I go to a local knitting group to pratice & keep up my German. It’s amazing what you can learn from such a group – and not only vocabulary!

What sources do you regularly turn to, or recommend?

6 advantages of a virtual meeting over a face to face one!

I work from home, so that means that I take part in quite a few virtual meetings. Whether you prefer Skype, Google Hangouts or full video conferencing, there are some advantages to virtual online meetings, as opposed to in person or even teleconferencing. Here is my list of six things that I gain from virtual meetings:

  1. No travel time: you can attend from where you are already
  2. No travel costs (although you might want to invest in some tools)
  3. It’s easy to share your desktop with folks, to show what you mean
  4. You can see faces, so it makes you feel more connected than by teleconferencing
  5. You can video record a meeting for others to watch if they could not attend
  6. Nobody will catch your cold, and you will catch no-one else’s!

Of course, if you turn the video off, or teleconference instead then you can attend a meeting in your PJs and no-one will know. And of course, I have found that there are disadvantages too:

  1. Technology needed requires a little time to install & get familiar/comfortable with (and might cost). For freelancers: different clients may prefer to use different technology!
  2. Internet connections & free tools can sometimes let you down: it’s better to be plugged in than rely on wifi if you’re using VoIP.
  3. In virtual meetings, only one of you can talk at a time: this might be an advantage, of course! But you lose the many “mini” interactions that take place around a larger, in-person meeting, eg pairs of attendees around a table chatting whilst waiting for a meeting to start or the person at the end who asks an extra question in private. So the virtual meeting is less personal and less social than meeting in person.
  4. It doesn’t signal your commitment/interest/availability to your client, so you may have to work extra hard with other forms of communication, to compensate. If you really want to impress someone, then it is better to go and see them in the real world!
  5. There is no travel time but you do need to prepare: plug your camera/speaker/microphone in, sign in to the software, put a smart jacket on, tidy your shelves behind you, silence your mobile phone and turn that washing machine off! You may also need to organise a back-up plan, in case your internet connection fails you.

Sometimes a real meeting is what you need but often, a virtual chat is more efficient and if you live miles away from your client or team then it might be your only realistic option.

What tools do you like to use for meetings, and what advantages do they bring you?

Slidedeck introducing information ethics

If you’ve ever wondered what a Masters level module on information ethics might cover, well here’s a taster of some adapted slides from our module, which is part of the Masters degree in Digital Curation from Kings College London and Humboldt University. I think it’s a great way to introduce some of the themes that information professionals come across in their working lives, and students can really explore important issues.

 

Three especially German things at the Frankfurt book fair.

The Gutenberg Press Museum
The Gutenberg Press Museum

October is always the busiest month of the year, somehow… and, as usual, I am catching up now that it’s November. This year I am full of things to write about, most especially from the Frankfurt book fair, where I was lucky enough to be a panellist on a Hot Spot stage. This post is about all things I spotted at the book fair, which I found to be connected to Germany. 1. The Gutenberg press was represented by its museum, and you could see items being printed at the fair itself.

2. Porsche museum. Another museum proudly signposted the best of Germany, in this case its strength in car manufacturing.

Porsche museum
Porsche museum

Porsche not only make cars, but are also publishers and indeed a fashion company, as I found out at the Frankfurt airport shopping mall!

Helpful students who speak good English!
Helpful students who speak good English!

3. BID, the professional society for German Libraries & Libriarians. They are a kind of equivalent to the UK’s CILIP, properly called “BID – Bibliothek & Information Deutschland”. They were represented by two stalls at the fair: one for the main organisation, and one for a group called LIS. At both of these stalls I spoke to students from the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences: they had also attended the morning panel discussion, being students of my fellow panellist, Dr. Petra Düren. They also spoke excellent English and were good advocates for their professional association!

Familiar faces!
Familiar brands!

I know that there was a lot more of Germany there for those who sought it: there was German apple wine to sample at one of the stalls, and plenty of German beer around, but I didn’t quite make it… I was busy being distracted by all the other people who were at the Frankfurt book fair. People like Open Athens, who I had a nice chat to about how students at the universities I worked at in the UK would often rave about all the information they found “on Athens”. What the students really meant, of course, was the resources that the library subscribed to for them, and which they authenticated to, using OpenAthens!

More soon about all the other people I spotted at the Frankfurt book fair, in my next blogpost…

After the Frankfurt book fair: full of inspiration!

Photo of me ready to speak
Is the “Data-Librarian” the Future of Library Science?

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to attend the enormous, international Frankfurt book fair, as I was a panellist for Elsevier’s Hot Spot discussion on the future of library science and the data-librarian.  I highly recommend the opportunity & experience, as the Elsevier staff really looked after their speakers and I got to meet not only my fellow panellists but also some of the audience who came and introduced themselves at the “hot spot cafe” immediately after our discussion.

 

 

Photo of panellists & our moderator
Left to right: Noelle Gracy, Jenny Delasalle, Dr Schnelling, Prof. Dr. Petra Düren, Pascalia Boutsiouci

The session itself was filmed, and there was a professional photographer there (I have permission to use these official pictures), so I’m sure you’ll find out more about it over on Elsevier’s website: watch the LibraryConnect section! Our basic panel structure was that we were asked questions by Elsevier’s Noelle Gracy, which came from the community in advance.

What did we cover?

Well, I didn’t get to take notes as well as to talk(!) so I can tell you what I had prepared to say, and what I remember, one week after the event! Here are some nutshell points:

  • The future of library science encompasses more than just data librarianship, of course!
  • Librarians may find that adding skills with data to their CV opens up more job opportunities in the future.
  • Librarians offer a lot to the data community, not least their professional ethics & knowledge of legal expectations, which of course is covered in the module I teach to KCL/Humboldt University’s MA Digital Curation students.
Photo of me with microphone, discussing with fellow panellists
Getting to hear each other’s opinions

Librarians also have:

  • ability to describe items/create valuable metadata records
  • connections with all disciplines across campus (& library building is often central too)
  • experience of assessing quality and significance for collection management
  • skills in training & informing others
  • It’s certainly not all about technical skills: Dr Schnelling was very clear about that point, as I believe it was his question, about what skills future librarians need. But of course there are some technical skills that will help if you are working with data. Especially when considering preservation needs.
  • One easy way to begin familiarising yourself with data management issues, is to look at data management plans, and what they involve.

If you were there, then maybe you can share some more highlights of the talk by leaving a comment, below. I will also blog here again about some of my other top sights from the fair: after the talk, I went around many of the stalls, looking for things specifically German. Of course, it was an international fair, so I found an awful lot more. I will end here with a final photograph of the audience for our panel session. If you were there, then thanks for coming!

photo of audience looking at the Hot Spot stage
Standing room only!

A trip to New York city

So my blog is called “A librarian abroad” and I haven’t blogged very much about my trips! This week I was in New York to visit a client: I saw lots of Soho/Noho and I must say, it’s my favourite part of the city. I daresay that I felt more at home there because it’s got lots of older architecture which makes it feel more like Europe, and of course because it’s where New York University is to be found. Here is a picture of their lovely red sandstone library:

NY Uni Library
Or is it a pic of a tree? I’m no photographer, sorry! But you get the idea: the library is opposite Washington Square Park…

I didn’t try to go in and visit: it was really, really busy and I could see the card barriers just inside the doors. I did look in through the windows, and I love the repeated square maze-pattern lighting, which you can see if you look very hard in my picture. Not only is it visually appealing but there’s no need to worry about the alignment of your shelves & your lights, as with strip lights!

It’s nice when you can speak your own language on your travels. Well, almost! I learnt to call the toilet a “restroom” for a few days, and to ask where the nearest “trashcan” is, but still forgot to call a full stop a “period”! Also, there’s no such thing as a flapjack in the US (apparently there is something called a flapjack but that’s what I would call a pancake!) and the nearest I could get to the ubiquitous (in the UK) British flapjack was an oatmeal cookie or granola bar, neither of which is quite the same.

And of course, as a tea drinker, I struggled to get a decent cuppa: it’s even more difficult than in Germany! I actually bought one “tea” that was undrinkable from the “Argo Tea Cafe”. I was enticed in by the name, but suspicious when I saw the bubbles on top of my tea and caught a scent of something more like bubble-gum than earl grey tea! Then I realised that there was no trace of either tea leaves or tea bag. I tried to drink it, I really did, but I had to settle for a bottle of water in the end.

Finally, here is a photo of the nearby physics building in the same warm, glowing red sandstone finish as the library, which of course my photos don’t capture:

NY Uni Physics building
With classic NY street “furniture!

Teaching Information Ethics at Humboldt University’s IBI

Amongst my other work, I teach two modules at the Berlin School of Library and Information Science (known as IBI), at Humboldt University:

  1. English for Information Professionals
  2. Information Ethics and Legal Aspects

Perhaps I’ll write about teaching English another day, for this post is all about teaching information ethics to international students on a Masters in Digital Curation programme. This whole course looks great for students, since they get to spend a year in Berlin as well as studying at Kings College London.

I lecture on the ethics module, and my co-tutor Boris Jacob leads the seminars: we work very collaboratively in our delivery of our materials, and of course we co-ordinate the module through the virtual learning environment, Moodle. We’re planning for the next cohort of students at the moment and we’re both going to present soon at IBI’s BBK about how we teach this course, and why Berlin is a particularly suitable place to teach information ethics.

Boris and I both have experience of having worked in the field, and we bring our practical knowlege as well as theory to the course. Being from the UK, I’m very much more aware of British (CILIP) and American (ALA) theory and principles, whilst Boris is a German (BID) who has also worked in Belgium, and therefore brings a very European perspective, and the students themselves (I speak of last year’s cohort: I’ve not met this year’s yet) also come from different lands, bringing their own cultural backgrounds to the course. We introduce them to theory and then encourage them to explore ethical dilemmas, and our goal is that they are able to identify such dilemmas when they come across them, and to find and apply theories that can help. So, what kind of themes do we cover? Here is a list of some of things that we explore in our course:

  • Ethical principles and codes of professional organisations
  • Plagiarism : what it is, how we might avoid it and why it’s different to breach of copyright
  • Neutrality : the classic library debates about how to handle customers with equality, and how to build collections
  • Intellectual property & copyright : what are the principles: how does this work in the students’ own lands & in what way is German law different from the UK?
  • Citizen contributions: ways to handle them, including the right to remain anonymous and data protection issues
  • Digital divides : where we might find these and how can information professionals help to overcome them
  • Open Access and Digital Rights Management: what happens when we put locks on content?
  • Information literacy : what belongs on the curriculum and why?
  • The Media : how can we learn from journalists’ ethical codes?

Well, that’s just off the top of my head… there’s lots more, and of course we like to incorporate news stories as well as the opportunities that Berlin has to offer. Last year was the premier of Citizenfour (Laura Poitra’s documentary about Edward Snowden) and of course Berlin’s Transmediale festival. Not to mention all the museums and exhibitions tracking communications, computing and spying that Berlin has to offer! I’m quite envious of those students, because Berlin is a great place to study, as well as their course being truly fascinating. At least I get to teach it!

Ramping up to the Autumn term… use these guides for researchers

Autumn term is looming and we’re all busy preparing: I’m working on an Information Ethics course for Humboldt Uni: more on that in another post! This post is for practising Research Support Librarians, researchers themselves and other kinds of research support professionals. I want to recommend Piirus’ “Digital Identity Health Check” to you! It is free and you can use it in your courses and support materials, or of course to check the health of your own digital presence!

It’s a really well thought-out, accessible walk-through of the ways that academics can make the most of their digital presence, engage with social media and gain visibility for their research. It recommends good practice, introduces tools and services and offers examples, as well as linking to other useful guides for further information. There are other Piirus Bonus guides on the page I’ve linked to as well: Piirus is developing a series, and the other two published guides relate to Co-authorship.

Piirus are one of my clients so I must declare my interest, but hopefully that will also inspire your confidence in the health check and other guides, since I’ve had a lot of input into them! My former colleague Emma Cragg has been developing this series of Piirus Bonuses, and of course she has a lot of expertise in this area. We’ve been working collaboratively with the rest of the Piirus team, of course, so the guides incorporate a lot of shared expertise.

If such a thing exists, then I wish you a peaceful lead-in to the Autumn term!

 

Working from home works for me!

I already blogged the things I like about working from home… so here is its opposite. Four things that are not so great and how I overcome them.

  1. It can be lonely: telephone and videoconferencing help to overcome this, but really, loneliness isn’t something I struggle with. All the e-mail interactions help, too.
  2. I lack a change of scenery in my day. But when I get a change, it really helps: it’s amazing how much a little lunch time walk can lift my spirits and inspire me.
  3. It’s annoying sometimes when the weather is great and I don’t even get a commute in it. I can always just step out onto the balcony for a breath of fresh air, though. That is better than working in most offices!
  4. I have to cook and wash up for myself at tea/lunch time… as well as all the breakfast and dinner things…

I got 7 advantages and only 4 disadvantages, so there’s proof that it works for me.