Reflections from USTLG meeting on 11th May 2010

The USTLG is an informal group of Science and Technology librarians in the UK. Meetings have recently resumed and this meeting was held at the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Head Office in London. The theme of the meeting was New Technologies.

After a welcome from Moira Bent, the first talk of the day was from Jon Fletcher from Nottingham Trent University. His talk was Embedding resources in VLE’s. He gave a good 5-step guide on how to do this, from planning content, getting access to pages and sustainability.  From the examples Jon showed us, it was great to see library resources sharing the main page instead of being a side bar in the page. The benefits he had seen were increased number of student enquiries, increase in usage of resources and a better relationship with academics.

I see author access to pages as a stumbling block in my organisation. However I liked the idea of a “snowball effect” to get access to the pages. Persuading one academic of the benefits, who then gives you access,  and then letting the success of that course provide the stimulus for other academics to give access to their pages.

Other key points that I picked up were the resources were tailored to the courses, not generic. You have to plan for sustainability and updating and have realistic communication with academics about timescale etc. My thought is that it depends on how much the VLE is used within the organisation. If it is a key resource, that all students and academics use, I can see the benefits. However if there is some  resistance to using the VLE for courses this may make this project unsuccessful. This is an important consideration with all the work a project like this would involve. It certainly has spurred me on to look into this as one of my summer projects, at least for some of my departments, keeping in mind to start small and increase gradually.

The next talk came from Mark Gavillet from University of Newcastle. He is the Web Development Officer within the library. He is currently developing Mylibrary, an open source Library dashboard. I think the best way to describe this is that it takes the best/highly used content of the library and displays it altogether and allows that content to be accessed quickly and easily and can also be linked to via igoogle and facebook. This description doesn’t do it justice. It looked really amazing and from those I talked to and the tweets I read, everybody wanted it. Admittedly it does copy the content that is already there, but as mentioned in his talk, and I feel I lot of us agree with, getting to that content can be convoluted. He showed us the kind of information that they were including. I was impressed that the pages looked like they could be personalized to the user, showing resources they personally used as well as their library account information. For me, although only a small part, I really liked the use of Google calender for opening times. You could see opening times for a particular day, and library staff could add events to the calender. This would be great for us, especially at the start of year. A great way to add all the training and tours we have and much better than an out of date list only one person can edit that we currently use. At the moment Mylibrary is not live but it should go live in the new academic year at Newcastle. As I said this looks great and it will be interesting to see how it is used and feedback it received. I do wonder though if students don’t click on the library homepage link at the moment what will make them click on the library dashboard link.

Next came an excellent lunch provided by the RSC and a chance to catch up with other attendees. Great chance to meet people I had only met virtually.

After lunch the RSC introduce their new Beta publishing site. I have been keeping up to date with this but it did remind me to go and have a play with it.

The next talk came from from Paula Anne Beasley and Linda Norbury from the University of Birmingham. Their talk as was about Advocating professional social networking to academics. Following on from training sessions given to library staff on web 2.0, came the idea to expand out to academics. They sent out an email survey to gauge interest and used that to help plan the sessions. It became a collaboration with other departments involved with professional development of staff. The feedback that they received was that those attending enjoyed the training, however there was a varying range of basic IT skills which hindered the session.

I am not entirely sure of the libraries role in this training. Admittedly a lot of librarians do embrace web 2, but certainly within my institution we have a department for teaching and learning and also the IT department that are probably better placed to provide this training. Though I do take on board that it is good marketing for the library.

The talk did remind me to investigate Opinio and Captivate. Also the idea of providing training sessions on web 2.0 for library staff, like the 23things training program that many libraries have used to train their staff in various web 2.0 technologies. A recent tweet from @LbrGoddess highlights that Cambridge University Library is about to embark on Cam23. Another idea to mention to the library’s IT team, though perhaps it could involve various people throughout the library that use the web 2.0.

Finally Gareth Johnson a.k.a llordllama gave his talk on blogging and microblogging. I was looking forward to this as llordllama was one of the first people I followed on twitter.

His talk covered the in’s and out’s of blogging and twitter, why you can use blogs and twitter, the planning involved, what makes a good post. He also gave some excellent points you can make to management if there is resistance to using these technologies. I was grateful that a lot of the ideas mentioned, we had already looked at and use for our blog, e.g. rainy day posts, though I am ashamed to admit that our twitter account is just a feed from the blogs (but hopefully that can change – see below!).

Although we have blogs and a twitter account, Gareth’s talks still provided food for thought on ways we can improve them. Our main problem is feedback and comments, at the moment there is no “conversation” and we do need to develop that. I also feel I will be referring to his slide on what makes a good post every time I write a post.

As a side note, a twitter tool Hootsuite was mentioned in the Q and A after Gareth’s talk, this has been a fantastic find.  I can now follow my twitter account, library twitter account, facebook and my blogs all from one page, including direct replies,  mentions and twitter searches I run.  Unfortunately I can’t add the work blogs. This has been so useful and made it so much easier to stay up to date with all the accounts. I am hopeful that this can lead to developing the work twitter account into a more conversational tool than publicity tool. Other benefits are the ability to schedule tweets and allow others admin access to the work twitter account

A common thought occurred to me from the day was that libraries do have a lot of resources and information available but we don’t make it easy to find and expect users to come to us for the information. The new technologies allow us to make everything simpler and easier to find and also give information to people where they are rather than them coming to us.

More information on the USTLG and slides from the meeting are available here

The next meeting will be at the Radcliff Science Library, University of Oxford in late November. The theme for that meeting will be supporting research. Another area of increasing importance at work so I will be looking forward to that meeting.

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