A look at digital communications

I recently attended a brilliant workshop put on by UKeiG (UK eInformation Group, a special interest group of CILIP). The course was on digital communications and was run by Ned Potter. I knew Ned’s work from his excellent blog and Twitter, and thought the material would be applicable to my current work, so I asked to go.

The day course covered the principles of digital communications and a plethora of tools and apps. There was also space for feedback and to hear from course participants about their experiences. I wanted to highlight a few points I found most interesting and useful.

  • One my favourite tools was Padlet. It is described as ‘paper for the web’ and is essentially a virtual pin/notice board where anyone with the URL can post. Ned recommended it for interaction and getting online feedback, with the obvious library application being using it in library inductions. We used it in the session to give feedback (less scary than putting your hand up!) and then Ned could respond in real time. It was also neat to see what everyone had written and I could see it being useful in this respect for collaboration and team projects.
  • I got intrigued by a use of QR codes to promote e-books. A QR code is a “quick response” bar code that takes you directly to a website when you scan it with your smartphone (rather than having to type in the URL or Google it). The idea suggested was to use QR codes to link the physical and the virtual by putting a ‘faux’ book or place marker on the shelf where the e-book would be and have a QR code on it which then directed the user to the e-book. The only drawback is that you need a QR code reader app on your mobile for it to work. I’ll be looking into this one for our library so stay tuned.
  • Video is increasingly how people learn nowadays, according to Ned. Long handouts and wordy power points just aren’t as interesting. Enter video and the good thing is that now you don’t have to have specialist equipment or hire someone to create a great video for you because there are a number of free/cheap apps available. A few that were recommended were Videoscribe (creates whiteboard videos by animating your raw material), Adobe Voice (like a cross between slideshow and video) and PowToon (cross between Videoscribe and Adobe Voice). Ned also was singing the praises of YouTube as a way to amplify the reach of your videos. An example of videos in libraries was shared by a participant from a university library. They created a Vine (very short looping video platform) to quickly show how to use their photocopiers and put a QR code linking to the video on the photocopier.
Photo credit- Tom (Flickr CC-A license).

Augmented reality… (Photo credit- Tom, Flickr CC license).

  • Probably the segment with the biggest cool factor was augmented reality (AR). AR is when you view a real object using a smartphone or tablet which then adds ‘layers’ of information or interactivity onto the experience. AR is still in the pioneering stages, but there a lot of potential applications for teaching and learning. For example, an augmented reality app was recently launched at the College for users of our recording studios.
  • One final point about social media, Ned proposed that interactivity is the key way to grow your following. ‘Engagement’ is one of those buzzwords floating around university/library/project land now. I don’t know whether this is part of seeing how big an impact (another buzzword for you) you’re having or maybe it’s just valuable because it’s starting a dialogue with your community. Either way it’s something to think about and I’ve been experimenting with asking more questions in my work and personal social media outputs.
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IAML (UK & Irl) conference ’15 – short post

Two weekends ago I attended the IAML (UK & Irl) annual study weekend, which you may recall me plugging in my previous post about music libraries. I went to represent Leeds College of Music and the Music Libraries Trust. I also had more jobs to do this year, namely reading reports for the College and MLT and also meeting all the MLT bursary winners, of whom there were 10!

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New Library of Birmingham

It was another great weekend with highlights including a tour of the new Library of Birmingham, updates on other new libraries (Birmingham University, The Hive, Manchester Central Library) and thinking about digital technologies – the impacts, opportunities and various projects. I will blog more in depth at some point but in the meantime you can read two posts I’ve done for the IAML (UK & Irl) blog and a multitude of others by various contributors!

Blog 1 on the Academic Music Librarians seminar

Blog 2 on the ‘New Libraries – what can we learn?’ sessions

Music Libraries – do you still shush people?

A topical post as I am going to be attending the conference of the professional association for music libraries, IAML (UK & Irl) this weekend.

What is a music library and do you still have to shush people? The short answer is yes, yes we do still have to shush people! I remember telling the pupils at my previous job in a school library that I was leaving to work in a music library. The conversation went something like this:

‘I’ve gotten a job in a music library.’

‘What’s a music library?’ ‘What’s that?”Does it still have books?’ [They all tended to speak at once.]

‘It’s like this library only with music and CDs and stuff.’

‘Ohhhhh.”Oh right.”Ok.’

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A pretty cool school library ‘The Unquiet Library’. Image Credit: CVHS Students Gather @ The Unquiet Library for the Roots Music Club Meeting, November 2011, Flickr CC.

So that in a nutshell is what a music library is, a specialist library (in the literacy, information, empowering people sense of the word) with music-related resources both physical and digital. My music library, being in an educational environment, is entirely focussed on supporting and facilitating teaching, learning and research. This could look like digital skills tutorials for students or getting in an orchestral set for a Stravinsky symphony a College ensemble is performing. We also provide a quiet study environment and PCs (hence the shushing) amongst many other things!

BBC Radio recently featured some music libraries in its ‘Music Celebrates’ broadcasts, notably the British Library Sound Archive and Manchester Central Library’s Henry Watson Music Library.

Some Leeds College of Music Library social media for you to follow:

Twitter @LeedsMusicLib

Facebook – Leeds College of Music Library

Pinterest – LeedsMusicLib

Top Four Aspects (so far) of Life in Britain

I took one of those fake “Life in the UK” tests online a few months ago and duly forwarded the link to my British husband. Both of us failed it, but we can’t actually remember the percentages. I got more history questions right but he did better with the sport/political questions. Anyhow I am still a proud American Southerner (bring on the grits) after four and a half years over here, but I have been reflecting lately on aspects of British life that I’m actually getting on with quite well…in no particular order.

  • All the old stuff

There is a medieval Cistercian abbey ruin about 10 minutes walk from our flat. In the US, we get excited about buildings from the 1800s, so medieval structures blow our minds just a little! We are quick to acknowledge we cannot compete for history with the old continent, which is one reason why so many Americans like to visit Europe. It was the history of this country that initially attracted me and once I visited in 2007, I fell in love with the place. Obviously by now I have seen the less historic side of the country but I still get that awestruck feeling as you experience living history in everyday life.

  • Digital scales

I finally relented and bought a digital scale after years of converting measurements from grams to cups to who knows what, and, let me tell you, it is now a cherished possession. Mainly because the cookbooks I have are British and so everything is in metric anyway. My digital scale measures in grams and milli-liters and pounds too I think. It has made my life so much simpler both because I don’t have to hurriedly convert measurements online as much (how many grams is a stick of butter??) but also it seems to save dirty dishes since you can just measure everything into one bowl.

  • Hanging up clothes to air dry

This was initially born out of necessity because I didn’t have a tumble dryer. They are still not a common appliance in many British homes. Personally I think this is a surprising display of British a-rationalism, since it being a damp country a lot of homes have mould problems and surely drying clothes indoors (because of course it’s raining outside) just compounds this problem! Anyway, we now do have a tumble dryer (and not one of those suspicious “all-in-one washer/dryers” that just make your clothes REALLY wrinkled). But I don’t use it that often, I think mainly because I have been converted to the energy-saving aspects of air drying and just got into the habit. However I have not nor ever will be converted to the idea that no dishwasher is alright because hand washing all your dishes is really nice and eco-friendly…

  • Pedestrian life

There are very few places in the US that you can live without a car just because of the sheer distances involved between points A and B and lack of public transport unless you live in the Northeast or a mega-city. Over here though it is very common to be car-less, because 1) public transport is very good, 2) the driving test is extremely difficult to pass, and 3) the price of fuel (“petrol” not “gas”) is very high. We don’t have a car and while is it certainly inconvenient at times, I love the fact that exercise and fresh air is already built into my daily routine.

Have you lived/travelled abroad? What aspects have you imported back home?