Andrew Eynon’s Library Blog

A blog about librarianship in Further Education

Archive for August, 2008

August FE library news update

Posted by andrewey on August 29, 2008

I’m going to post monthly updates providing short library news items which may be of interest to other FE librarians:

The new occupational standards for the Library Archives and Information Services (LAIS) sector have been published (LLUK have indicated that the standards will also be published in Welsh – depending on funding). As an NVQ co-ordinator I’m hoping that we will have the new qualification standards in place for the start of the 2009/10 academic year. The new standards also mean that staff working in the archives sector will be following the same qualification as library staff rather than having their own distinct set of occupational standards.

There is now an international Information Literacy logo which can be downloaded and used freely.

The new edition of the CoFHE Bulletin (No. 113) includes a write up of the CoFHE/UC&R conference workshop on using podcasting in education. If you would like to submit an article for the Bulletin please contact me.

The Learning resources quality toolkit for English colleges (which I have been working on with colleagues in England) is due for publication in September. The toolkit has been a joint venture between CoFHE and CoLRiC and was based on the successful toolkits produced for FE library services in Scotland and Wales. The English toolkit will be made available electronically via the Centre for Excellence in Leadership as well as CoFHE/CoLRiC. CoFHE also intends to publish the toolkit in hardcopy and to distribute it to all colleges in England.

I have also contributed to the revised Welsh learning resources toolkit which is due for publication, by fforwm, before Christmas (again the toolkit will be made available free of charge electronically and in hardcopy, in both English and Welsh, to all colleges in Wales). 

Work is also underway to revise the Scottish learning resources toolkit, which will apparently make reference to the use of Web 2.0 technologies - I do not know when this is scheduled for publication.

Posted in FE Libraries, Monthly news updates | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Should FE libraries continue to charge fines for overdue items?

Posted by andrewey on August 25, 2008

A recent article in the Guardian;Noisy row breaks out in libraries over fines‘, 15 August 2008, commented on the current debate in public libraries about whether or not services should continue to impose fines on late returns. In academic libraries the culture of imposing fines seem even more entrenched, and at much higher monetary levels, than in public libraries.

However, the feedback we were getting at Coleg Llandrillo, from tutors and learners, was that fines were counter productive with either students failing to return items because they feared having to pay large fines or simply not borrowing in the first place for fear of incurring such fines. Furthermore, fines appeared to be the most common cause of confrontation between library users and library staff – often over trivial sums of money. Moreover, there seemed to a be a social inclusion argument in that charging fines may put off disadvantaged learners from borrowing more so than learners from more affluent backgrounds. Consequently, we stopped charging fines over two years ago, issue figures have gone up (at a time when many colleges are seeing a decrease) yet the rate of non-returned items is certainly no worse than when we charged fines.

Interestingly the debate reflected in the Guardian article centers around fines as an important source of library income yet in an ideal world there would be no fines income as items would all be returned on time – therefore this implies that the function of fines is punitive (and designed to raise revenue) rather than as a means of ensuring items are returned on time (which of course fines do not).

Incidentally our solution to the issue raised in the article about items never having to be returned is that we do invoice borrowers for their replacement cost after a certain period of non-return (as was also the case when we charged fines).

Posted in FE Libraries | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Librarian 2.0 skill set

Posted by andrewey on August 21, 2008

So what skills should Librarian 2.0 possess? David Lee King has compiled a list of mainly technical competencies that library staff should acquire to become Librarian 2.0. Most of these can be acquired fairly easily and quickly by staff following a Learning 2.0 or Web quest programme so it is certainly not the case that library services should be put off developing Web 2.0 services because of a lack of staff expertise.

The skills listed require, in the most part, only a rudimentary knowledge of the technologies eg making blog posts, explaining RSS, uploading files. The only higher level skills are a fairly basic knowledge of HTML, which staff with any experience in writing web pages probably already have, and the creation of multimedia content. Even without any prior knowledge of HTML staff can quickly pick up a working knowledge by following free online tutorials or a text book. Most staff are probably familiar with digital photography even if they have not used editing software (which as mentioned in earlier posts does not have to be that sophisticated).

It is in the less tangible skills that David Lee King identifies that the real strengths of Librarian 2.0 reside ie knowing how Web 2.0 services can be applied to a library service, understanding how they can be used to compliment traditional services and how to ‘tell the library’s story’ through a variety of media. These skills can be learnt by enabling staff to experiment with Web 2.0 technologies to see how they work, how they can be used in a library context and how to enhance library services through the use of multimedia. I would argue that it is only through experimenting with Web 2.0 tools that their library potential will become apparent.

Posted in Library 2.0 | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Book review of Library 2.0: a guide to participatory library service

Posted by andrewey on August 18, 2008

In Library 2.0: a guide to participatory library service Michael Casey and Laura Savastinuk outline how to develop a Library 2.0 culture in your library service. In fact Michael Casey is credited with coining the term Library 2.0 on his Library crunch blog in 2005 and is therefore one of the authoritative voices on this subject. Both authors have backgrounds in the American public library sector in Georgia but their Library 2.0 philosophy is easily transferable to other sectors. Library 2.0 is seen as a response to the serious challenges faced by (some) library services, as outlined in the introduction (p. xxiv):

  • Loss of interest amongst library users in our services
  • We no longer consistently provide services that our users want
  • Reluctance amongst some library services to move away from traditional services
  • We are no longer the first port of call for information enquiries

These points seem to portray an overly pessimistic view of the state of library services and I would suspect that most proactive library services were already responding to changes in the pattern of library usage long before the rise of Library 2.0. However there is certainly a need for all library services to engage in a process of ongoing (re-)evaluation of their services. Casey and Savastinuk see the solution to the problems listed above in the creation of a ‘participatory’ library service (p. 5) which encompasses user input and feedback in the delivery of library services. Furthermore, Library 2.0 services need to embrace a culture of change which must continue to meet the needs of existing users whilst attracting non-traditional (and other) non-users.  

The authors cover ‘traditional’ as well as technological (Web 2.0) solutions to these issues. For example, they highlight the significance of developing libraries as social spaces – we have done this in our library by relaxing restrictions on food and drink and by encouraging social activities (eg boardgames) and through the creation of informal reading/browsing  areas, which have contributed to our library usage figures almost doubling in the 2007/8 academic year.

In developing a culture of change the authors stress the importance of ‘purposeful change’ which entails the constant evaluation of services both vertically and horizontally i.e. by cutting across staff roles and procedures (pp 12-14). This state of constant evaluation is designed to avoid the tendency for library services to fully develop and plan services only for them to quickly become sidelined and any beneficial outcomes are soon lost - the ‘Plan, implement and forget’ syndrome.

One area of Library 2.0 which is clearly explained is the concept of meeting the patron’s long tail. This is a business model of the supply of books, music and other media where there is significant demand for esoteric titles which is not met by high street suppliers who concentrate on titles on bestseller lists. This gap in the market is seen as an ideal niche for libraries to meet (in fact evidence suggests that the market for titles outside the bestseller lists is actually greater in total owing to the sheer volume of titles available). However, as the authors point out, some 206,000 book titles were published in 2005 in the UK alone (p. 64) so how could any library service hope to supply even a small fraction of those titles? I would argue that the long tail model is reflected in academic libraries in the debate over whether or not our collections policy should concentrate on providing core texts or on providing titles to ‘read around’ a subject. In FE the tendency has probably been towards the core titles as the demand for these is so high but at Coleg Llandrillo we have found that by participating in our free local inter-lending scheme (LINC y Gogledd) we have begun to meet the long tail demand as well. In fact our inter-library loans have increased six fold in two years and this trend is likely to increase as more titles become freely available to our borrowers through the Cat Cymru project.

Casey and Savastinuk define a responsive library service as being one which (p. 21):

  • listens to customer suggestions
  • is willing to look at new serivces (based on customer demand)
  • is proactive in anticipating customer demand and responding to customer concerns 

In response to the usual concerns over staff time, cost and lack of expertise the authors propose looking at existing services to evaluate whether or not they offer value for money in terms of staff time and other costs. Here there seems to be considerable scope for more library co-operation across a range of services which can be facilitated by Web 2.0 technologies to reduce these costs. 

The book does not cover the use Web 2.0 tools in any detail – only one chapter looks at this area which includes a small number of well chosen examples. It does however offer clear and sound advice on implementing Library 2.0 and this is encapsulated in the authors’ open letter to library directors (p. 40) outlining ten simple steps to making the transition to Library 2.0. The title is very readable and offers clear guidance on how to develop Library 2.0 (in only 172 pages). The title is also well priced at $29.50 (retailing for about £22.00 in the UK). I would certainly recommend this title to anyone looking for a clear and concise introduction to Library 2.0.

Posted in Book Reviews, Library 2.0 | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Using screencasts in Information Literacy

Posted by andrewey on August 14, 2008

There seems to be a great deal of scope for video material to be used to support the delivery of information literacy/skills within FE – as a backup to face-to-face support/sessions. As noted in an earlier post, there is little on YouTube on information literacy. The time commitment involved in producing videos has meant that we were only actively considering making an induction video. However, in looking at the development of Web 2.0 tools I have come across a quick and simple means of producing information literacy videos (relating to the use of online resources) - screencasts. This medium is already widely used – and there are examples of FE library services using it eg Carnegie College (Dunfermline).

In essence this involves the use of screencapture or screenshots to create a video. This can be done far cheaper, simpler and quicker than producing a film. This method still allows for the addition of an audio track (although this is not essential) but does not require any filming as such. This can result in fairly sophisticated videos being produced using screen capture or using screenshots as stop frame animation. In their simplest form the videos are akin to an automated Powerpoint presentation with an audio commentary.

Although sophisticated packages are available to capture images of keystrokes and produce professional looking videos I’ve been using the Microsoft Movie Maker software which is bundled free with Windows XP and Vista. The software is very simple to use – I’d made my first video within an hour of opening the software. The version with Vista does seem to produce better quality videos and includes more features (such as the ability to zoom in on an image). 

For the screenshots I used Paint Shop Pro simply so that I could capture parts of the screen and save the images in a variety of file types (png seemed the best for quality and file size). Again screenshots can be made using Windows (Prt Sc/Alt Prt Sc) without specialist software and Microsoft Picture Manager can be used to crop the captured screenshots (and save them as jpeg or png filetypes). If you want to add audio, all you need is a microphone because Movie Maker includes the facility to record the narration. I used a digital voice recorder, as we have one in the library to record our focus groups, which allows you to record segments of audio which is easier to sync with the images.  There is also the facility to add titles before, after or superimposed on any image.

As a Web 2.0 tool the screencasts can be shared (via YouTube or similar) and commented upon. They are highly accessible given the ubiquity of YouTube - you can also access the videos on mobile technologies. The quality of the video material when it has been compressed on YouTube is not as suitable for demonstration purposes to a group but it is perfectly adequate for individuals to follow. There is also scope for colleges to share the Movie Maker project files so that videos can be customised and produced very quickly (particularly given the relatively small range of online resources that most FE colleges subscribe to). File sizes are manageable- the high quality version of a four minute video is around 10 to 12Mb so can be held on a VLE and accessed easily.

 Here is my first attempt at creating a screencast video with audio (and only the second time I’d used the software). The whole process took no more time than if I’d have produced a written guide including screenshots.

The library service is producing similar videos on our key online resources:

  • Athens authentication system
  • Talis Prism library catalogue
  • Infotrac – online journals and newspapers
  • Dawson Era – E-books database
  • MyILibrary – E-books database

When the videos are finished I will post a link to their permanent home. If you can recommend a reasonably priced screencasting software package which can follow the pointer/cursor and allow for the addition of a separate audio track and/or you have used screencasting successfully in your library please leave a comment.

Posted in Information Literacy, Inspiring Learning | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Book review of Meredith Farkas’ Social software in libraries

Posted by andrewey on August 11, 2008

As well as reviewing online sources I’m also going to post book reviews on titles relating to Library 2.0.

Given that I’ve already mentioned the work of Meredith Farkas I thought I would start with her book, Social software in libraries. The book is not about the theory of Library 2.0 but instead offers practical (not just technical) advice on the use of Web 2.0 technologies, with a good range of real world examples. Only in the discussion of libraries as the ‘third place’ (ie as a possible social space away from home and work) does the work touch on definitions of Library 2.0.

The book does however provide an excellent overview of Web 2.0 technologies and explains clearly how these tools can be used in a library context. Despite Meredith’s background as an academic librarian the book contains examples drawn from a variety of sectors (although of course the examples are from North America). More importantly there is a Social software in libraries website to support the book with further case studies.

The book is very readable and offers a concise explanation of the technologies in a style easily accessible to a non-technical audience. The book contains 320 pages divided into 16 chapters – usually with a single chapter devoted to each specific Web 2.0 technology (except for blogs which get two chapters owing to their prevalence). There are chapters on Mobile technology, video gaming and screencasts (a Web 2.0 tool I’m currently testing), as well as chapters on standard Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, social networks etc.

I would highly recommend this title, it is a shame that the cover price of $39.50 is not reflected in the price of the book in the UK (which is usually around £39.50).

Other titles I intend to review are:

Please recommend (or review) any good titles on Library 2.0 or Web 2.0 using the comments facility.

Posted in Book Reviews, Library 2.0 | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Building FE Library 2.0

Posted by andrewey on August 7, 2008

In an earlier post I said I would return to the points raised in Meredith Farkas’ presentation Building Academic Library 2.0 to discuss the issues involved in implementing Library 2.0 and applying these to a FE context. So what does Meredith suggest implementing Library 2.0 entails (which she does from the perspective of service delivery rather than from a purely technical angle)?

1 Firstly, you need to know your users. This is particularly difficult in FE where our learners are so varied both in terms of educational needs (from adults with learning difficulties through to postgraduates) and in terms of demographics. To do this Meredith says you need to ask your users what they value rather than what you value ie to avoid reverting to the ‘librarian knows best’ stereotype of Library 1.0.

2 You need to question everything ie in terms of re-examining the tenets of library work. I think there is a need to re-evaluate our priorities (as an FE library service) to move away from traditional concerns to recognising the challenges of making our services better suited to supporting the needs of learners and to embracing new technologies as a way of better engaging with our users.

3 Make material more accessible. As Meredith points out, this does not have to be a technological solution. In north Wales we have an interlending scheme LINC y Gogledd which currently links 5 local authority public library services, two FE colleges and Bangor University. This scheme enables personal borrowing, ie our learners can borrow directly from the university, as well as inter library loans. You are able to search the catalogues of 6 of the library services from a single URL. With the development of CatCymru you will soon be able to search all the library catalogues in Wales using a single (federated) search engine.

4 Move the library ‘website’ to spaces where our users are eg Facebook or other social networks. The rise of library blogs, wikis and pages on social networking sites etc suggests this is well under way in some library sectors although not very well advanced in FE I suspect. In FE our main priority is probably to ensure a high profile for the library service on the college’s VLE and website.

5 We need to consider the technology have nots – an important issue in FE where many learners may not have access to a PC at home. Again there is scope to work with public libraries here to promote their free internet access to encourage greater social inclusion. In addition, technology should not be used for its own sake – we need to consider what advantages Web 2.0 tools offer over conventional forms of delivering/supporting our service.

6 Build a learning culture amongst all library staff. This is particularly important when implementing web 2.0 tools so provide all staff with hands on experience of using these tools (as with our library Web Quest) and give them permission and time to try out new technologies.

7 Share information. As Meredith highlights, we are not, in the main, subject experts so make use of the expertise of teaching staff (and learners) in collaborative exercises, for which Web 2.0 tools are ideally suited, such as creating subject blogs or wikis.

8 Finally, good ideas can come from anywhere and anyone. The challenge is to create mechanisms to capture them – which is an area of the use of Web 2.0 technologies I intend to investigate as part of our Inspiring Learning project. The corollary of this challenge, as Meredith highlights, is the ability to be responsive and innovative. Here FE may be at an advantage, because we are probably more used to a culture of (rapid) change than some other library sectors. Certainly FE library services seem to have more autonomy to implement change quickly, compared to the more rigid structures prevalent in other library sectors.

Posted in Inspiring Learning, Library 2.0 | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Library Web Quest week 8 Facebook

Posted by andrewey on August 4, 2008

The last week of our Web Quest (based loosely on PLCMC‘s established Learning 2.0 programme). Library staff have now completed exercises on the following Web 2.0 technologies:

  • Blogs (WordPress)
  • Photo Sharing (Flickr)
  • Social Bookmarking (Del.icio.us)
  • Wikis (PBWiki)
  • RSS Feeds/Aggregators (Pageflakes)
  • Video sharing (YouTube)
  • Social networks (Facebook)

The Web Quest will be made available to library staff in Wales (and anyone else who’s interested) as a Wiki with support material available publicly through Moodle. The Web Quest can be completed as a weekly task (as we have done)  – if the library has someone to act as administrator – or at your own pace simply by working through the wiki.

In Facebook we have created a group for the library staff at Coleg Llandrillo. This will probably be used as an alternative method of communication to e-mail.

I’m debating setting up a page for this blog on the Facebook Blog Network (an application I picked up on at Joeyanne Libraryanne). The idea is that having a blog presence on Facebook will boost your readership numbers. I’m not convinced this is true where library blogs are concerned because you have to be a member of the blog network to access the blogs. This suggests that only other bloggers are likely to come across your Facebook page and, if interested, they would probably have come across your blog in the normal fashion anyway.

There are a number of library groups on Facebook relevant to FE, including CoFHE and UC&R. It would appear that the groups are primarily using Facebook to promote events at present.

If your library is using Facebook please leave a comment on how it is being used here.

Posted in Library Web Quest | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Ten uses for a FE library service blog

Posted by andrewey on August 1, 2008

Blogs are one of the most versatile Web 2.0 tools that you can deploy in your library service. Here are ten simple uses for a blog that any FE library service could utilise. Not only are these functions simple to set up but they are also free!

1 Marketing – blogs are a great way to promote the library service and raise awareness of what you are doing. Blogs are particularly useful in that they make good RSS feeds in to other applications such as your College VLE, Athens homepage etc which further raises the profile of the service.

2 Virtual suggestion box – blogs are an excellent way to generate feedback on the library service and it enables you to publicise what you are doing about any issues raised.

3 Current awareness services/ Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) services – this is a popular use of blogs in HE where a faculty/subject librarian sets up a blog to raise awareness of resources in a particular subject area. Examples of subject blogs from HE include the Open University, University College London and Birbeck, University of London. In FE you can just do this on the one blog with categories for each subject area (as we have done at Coleg Llandrillo).

4 Reader Development activities – this could include virtual reading groups, book reviews and links to national promotions.

5 Book requests – blogs offer a simple means for staff and, particularly, learners to make stock requests to the library.

6 As a discussion forum – particularly with staff/learners at other institutions. On our blog there was a discussion about whether or not wikis are legitimate sources for students to cite in references – the debate was started by a librarian from another college.

7 Promote/host staff or student work – our blog has featured photographs taken by teaching staff (and library staff)

8 Reflective journal – a good educational use but also a useful way for library staff to feedback on training they have undertaken (see my Web Quest posts)

9 Reference service – many libraries are using Instant Messaging for this, but where this software is restricted, as is often the case in FE, blogs make a good alternative. We have added an ‘Ask a librarian’ page to our blog.

10 News items – (the main function of a blog) a way of keeping library users up to date. Blogs are very useful for posting ad hoc arrangements eg vacation opening hours and the like. These can be posted quickly and are readily accessible off campus (and via RSS feeds).

As part of our Inspiring Learning Web 2.0 project I will evaluate how effective each of these uses has been in the case of our library blog. I will post my findings (on this blog) towards the end of the 2008/9 academic year.

If you are using library blogs in other ways please leave a comment.

Posted in FE Libraries, Library 2.0 | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

 
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