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.

Quick Update – Autumn 2014

A lot of change has been happening in my life this autumn and has resulted in a massive slow down of blog posts! You might have seen on Facebook or Twitter that I have changed jobs recently. I said goodbye to Bruntcliffe School on October 24th and am now in my second week as a library counter assistant at Leeds College of Music. A professional goal of mine is to work in a music library, so I was thrilled to get this role at the College and it’s great to be working with music again. My school library experience was brilliant and definitely prepared me for taking the next step in my career. I’ll be writing a blog post soon about what I learned.

I attended the IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Lyon, France in August. This was an amazing, mind-boggling experience and all you CILIP members can read a feature article I wrote for the October issue of Update (along with some other first timers’ perspectives). I’ll be adapting this for my blog at some point as well.

Along with a lot of early career library folks, I want to do my librarianship qualification. However it was put on the back burner because of my work commitments. However when I got my new job which is part time, I thought it was a good opportunity to study part time as well. So I am now a month in to the Information and Library Management MA/MSc (distance learning) at Northumbria University. I’m nearly caught up with the coursework and really enjoying it so far – lots of blog and Twitter fodder in there as well!

When not turning my life upside down, I try to keep up with email lists and wanted to share a few interesting articles I’ve read recently:

  • Daniel Russell, an employee of Google, on why your library card is a powerful research tool:  http://bit.ly/1xX5tqi
  • Christopher Hogwood, a pioneer of the historical performance movement in Britain, died recently. This post on the Cambridge Music Collections blog gave a brilliant picture of his life: http://bit.ly/1E0e6Tj
  • After attending the IFLA conference, I’m more interested in libraries advocating for the public interest. This short article about US librarians and anti-surveillance was interesting: http://bit.ly/1t82KGo

A few teaser pictures from #WLIC2014 Lyon:


Beautiful Lyonnais architecture.


Conference Centre

Exploring E-Readers

As part of some reading intervention we are doing at school next year, I have been asked to look into getting some Kindles. I thought it was a great idea as our students LOVE technology and it would be something different from the typical reading lesson. I don’t have an e-reader myself, so the only things I knew about the topic were bits gleaned from the wider library world. This was not a small amount actually as it is a hot button issue at the moment: viz. Amazon’s recent announcement of Kindle “Unlimited”, where you get unlimited e-book downloads for a monthly fee, was making waves on library-related social media. So I at least knew there were some copyright and legal issues involved with using e-readers in libraries.

My first step was to search the archives of (what I call) “Collective Wisdom” on the Yahoo School Library Network. This turned up several threads that in the end seemed to conclude that lending either Kindle the device or the content violates Amazon’s terms and conditions (they are for personal use only). However some schools still use them, but one librarian commented that you don’t want to be the school Amazon goes after. I do tend to doubt they would prosecute for this; imagine the headlines – “Online Behemoth Amazon Seeks to Stop British Schoolchildren Reading for Pleasure” – not good public relations really.

Another e-reader option, Kobos, came up in the SLN threads. Several school librarians went to great lengths to ascertain the legality of their use in schools and got written permission from the Kobo people. So I am currently looking into this option for our school. It has been suggested to start off with a pilot group of about a dozen students.

Further information on e-reader issues and campaigns:

CILIP briefing on ebooks


Jisc summary statement on copyright issues


Thoughts on School Librarianship (so far)

I’ve been in my library job for nearly two months now, so I thought I’d share a bit about what I do (because it’s half term and I’ve got the time!).  This is my first library job ever, so I came with an open mind though I knew a fair amount about the field from job hunting, conferences, volunteering in archives and libraries and my own research.  My school has about 1,000 students and the library holds over 3,000 books (mainly fiction) and has 25 computers.  The library is open before and after school, during break and lunch and it’s also used as a classroom for reading lessons.  It’s considered a bookable resource so teachers can also book it for their lessons if they need a classroom.

I’m job sharing the library work with a colleague, but since she didn’t start until October I was on my own for the first month.  I’m responsible for general library duties including cataloguing, issues/returns, shelving, IT support and supervising students in the library.  I also handle room bookings for the library and two other meeting rooms within it.  I spend a lot of time checking students are reading on the right level, helping the reluctant ones choose books and generally policing behaviour in the library.  I’ve also had a few different systems to learn:  Alice (library management system), SIMs (school information management system used for timetables, attendance and logging behaviour), and also the Accelerated Reader scheme and all the various school rules I’m meant to enforce!  I enjoy helping out in the reading lessons, especially the Years 7s who are new to the school, the ‘proper’ library system where you have to check books out and the Accelerated Reader scheme.  The scheme is American (I actually did it when I was in elementary school in Louisiana) and helps measure student progress and ‘accelerate’ their reading/literacy skills.  Students take a test three times a year which gives them a reading age and range of book levels, they then choose a book at their level and take a quiz when they’ve finished which tests their comprehension of the book.  If they pass at 80% or higher they move up one level, if not they stay on the same level.  I like the scheme and it seems to be successful.  It certainly is a very clear way to show student progress since they record their progress in their reading journal at every fortnightly reading lesson.

In addition to my library work, I’m spending about two days a week doing support work in the music department.  Since I’m not a trained teacher (though I have music teaching experience) I don’t actually do any teaching but I support the Year 7-8 music lessons.  This has been fun, but also a big adjustment in terms of teaching method.  We use a new method called ‘Musical Futures’ that I’m growing to like more and more.  It’s very non-traditional and non-classical, where music theory, learning to read music and and learning an instrument are not emphasised much at all.  Basically it’s the opposite of how I learnt music!  The idea is to ‘hook’ kids in by making music very accessible where everyone can get involved and have fun making music.  Then later they can progress on to learning an instrument, reading sheet music etc.  So we use a lot of percussion, what I call ‘rock band’ instruments (guitar, piano, drum kit, bass) and learn various 4-chord pop songs and some basic musical elements such as pitch, tempo and dynamics.  Since music is compulsory for Year 7-8, Musical Futures seems to work well in engaging both the keen musicians and students who are just there because they have to be.

I’ve also been working  on a project on reading motivation which I hope to blog about soon and have another few projects brewing.  Thinking about my future and CPD, I want to work through the CILIP competency framework (aka the PKSB) and set some goals of things I want to accomplish this year in terms of librarianship skills.  It’s been great so far actually working in a library because a) I quite enjoy it, b) I’m earning money, c) I’m being challenged and d) it’s giving me the experience I need to get on a postgrad LIS course!