Wednesday, 20 July 2016

CILIP Conference 2016: Scott Bonner shows us what libraries do best.

I was lucky enough to attend the recent CILIP Conference in Brighton on 12 and 13 July 2016.  Thanks to the CILIP Multimedia and Information Technology (MMIT) group who provided me with a bursary to attend. I am a member of CILIP and the MMIT group is one of my special interest groups (SIG). I have been a member of CILIP for a year now, and this was the first time I made real use of my membership.

Aside from reading the CILIP Bulletin, newsletters and updates, I'm ashamed to admit,  I've not explored in-depth the many things available to me as a member. There are a lot of bursaries available through the SIGs for members to attend conferences, so if you're toying with the idea of joining then this is certainly one advantage to becoming a member and a good way to dip your toe in the water.

One of my main motivations for wanting to go to this conference was to hear keynote speaker Scott Bonner of Ferguson Municipal Library. Ferguson Municipal Library was awarded Library of the Year in 2105. As director of the library, Scott made the decision to keep the library open during the riots and provided a space for people to come when there was nowhere else to go. Teachers used the library to set up a temporary school so that parents had somewhere their children could go. The library became a meeting place, a community hub a place you could go to get help or offer help. - Sound familiar?

When I read about this story, of a small library, open and welcoming to all, in the heart of a community that was being ripped apart by the worst imaginable crisis, it really spoke to me.

A recent tweet from Dallas Public Library
Scott maintains that he did something that many other libraries have already done and continue to do. And it's true that he's not the only library to do this. He just did it at a time when the power social media meant that it quickly became world-wide news.

This media attention brought a new dimension however. While keep the library open and safe for all,  Bonner was faced with the added responsibility of keeping the media out of the library, to protect the safety and privacy of the patrons within.

Scott learned a lot from his experiences and it changed his approach to librarianship. He learned that when a community is in crisis people need to feel useful, they want to help. It's important for a library to provide a space not only to benefit those in need of help, but also to facilitate those who need to help. He learned that a shirt and tie can be a barrier to communicating. And he learned that sometimes, for your own safety,  you have to walk away and hope that the library will still be there in the morning (it was).

Bonner's keynote was honest and delivered with modesty. His approach was one of  'this is what to do if you have a library in a community that's in turmoil', but drove home the point that what he did is what we all do every day. We say yes as much as possible, we get to know our organisations and community partners, we make mistakes and learn from them and we keep our doors open.

The difference was that during the initial riots after the shooting and again in November after the Grand Jury decision not to prosecute, the community's needs changed and the library changed with them. The library went from being a passive service provider to an assertive one.

They not only opened their doors but they reached out. They showed that there was a way out of the turmoil and there had to be other ways to come together and enact change in a positive way.

Here's a storify of the tweets during Scott's keynote which apart from anything else, demonstrates the humility with which it was delivered. Thanks to @wigglesweets for putting it together.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Thing 23 : Making it all work together

Making it all work together could mean different things.  There's the 'making it work together so that you have synergy between your various social media accounts' and 'making it work so that it doesn't encroach on the rest of your life' .

Making it work so that it doesn't encroach on your personal life is a skill in itself. I've been working on a few work-related social media projects lately and trying to fit them into and around my normal work schedule has been difficult. I currently use Hootsuite and Buffer to manage my accounts, schedule posts and keep track of hashtags etc. The one thing that I don't like about Hootsuite is that when I retweet someone's tweet, it looks like my original tweet. It gives a RT @.. at the start of the tweet but I would prefer if it just retweeted the original tweet instead. I like buffer for adding articles that I come across, and then it sends them out in intervals. I use scheduled posts in Facebook also, which is useful. You just have to be careful if you schedule a post about an event and then it gets cancelled.

I'm not sure if these tools really alleviates any of the work though. It still takes time and effort to write the posts, make them sound original or personal. At the moment, social media management occupies about 30% of my working week and that's enough for me. I don't think I could do it full time. It's not a healthy life-style to be stuck infront of a computer all day. I think if you're given the opportunity to take on a social media account for work purposes then it's important to make it clear to managers and colleagues that this is an extra responsibility which takes time and effort. It's easy to think that social media is a fun past time and something that should be done on your own time, or only take 5 minutes.

I've said this before, if I traveled on public transport I would get so much more done. I would love an hour a day, to myself to get all my posts and tasks set up for the day. I think it would work a lot better.

Thing 15: Advocacy for Libraries

Coming back to this one. I didn't have the energy to write about advocacy a few weeks ago. I'm not sure if I have now either but here goes.
Library Ireland Week starts tomorrow the 16th of November here in Ireland. It's probably the closest thing we have in Ireland to an advocacy campaign. It's a good programme and there has been a lot of effort put into it this year with some good coverage on national media.

Library Ireland Week always takes the general line of 'libraries are great' which is fine, we are great. I would like to see a campaign along the lines of 'what would we do without libraries' or 'imagine if all the libraries closed tomorrow' or even 'this is what we could do if we were properly staffed and funded'. The campaign highlights the wonderful things that happen in libraries in Ireland but doesn't say anything about the understaffed, underfunded libraries that are stretched to the limit. I realise that the LAI cannot be activists and there would be a conflict of interest in some cases.  I would like them to at least call on the government to meet certain standards when it comes to funding and staffing of libraries. At the moment public libraries are at the mercy of Local Authorities when it comes to funding and staffing but they, in turn are at the mercy of national government and have very little say in the funding that they receive every year.

Some European countries have a library law, so governments are legally obliged to meet certain targets regarding services and funding in their country's libraries. It would take a major  campaign to have something like a library law written in Ireland. Given how slow are government are at dealing with other current legal debates I doubt that libraries are on their priority list.

A comment on the Rudai blog post that I just read said that Advocacy begins within your own organisaiton. I agree with that. That's where I think social media can be useful.

I am at the moment managing the  social media campaign for our Galway's Great Read which is a month long literary festival that we hold every November. This is in the lead up to our 2016 commemorations next year. One of the elements that I'm trying to get across is the work that goes into the planning and organising of these events. We have about 30 events all over Galway County in libraries big and small. I'm showcasing the work and also the libraries themselves. I'm hoping this will act as a bit of an advocacy campaign for our library service. If it reaches some of our policy makers and decision makers higher up the chain then it will be a good thing.

It's hard work though, this is where it's important to have plenty of other people on board. The more people you have contributing to a campaign the stronger it is.

Thing 22: Mobile Things

I'm pretty attached to my mobile phone. For a long time I resisted the lure of the smart phone and stuck to the standard phone for making phonecalls. Eventually I took the plunge into the world of apps and I haven't looked back since.

I find my phone so handy for accessing emails and keeping up to date with all my social media accounts, listening to music, podcasts, radio, keeping in touch with colleagues, daily news etc. It's my go to device for any online work-related activities. My social media activities have really increased in the last few months however because of this course, and other work-related projects - to the point where I've made a conscious decision to delete some accounts and apps from my phone in order to give myself a break.

It's important to be able to switch off and take a break from it all. I would say that is the only draw back to the convenience of having a smart phone. It's very easy to be constantly distracted by all the dings and pings and notifications. I make a conscious effort to turn off notifications for all the apps and every so often I will go through my apps and delete the ones that I no longer need. I also try every so often to go on a Facebook diet and delete that app too.

There are some situations where I just have to use my phone for work purposes - if for example I'm photographing an event and need to tweet it etc. I'm conscious of what that must look like to my colleagues and members of the public when then see me tapping away. Unfortunately there's no way around it if I'm required to update our social media accounts in work then using my phone is the quickest way to do that.

I really like the idea of the GUM app. It's very new in production which is probably why there's not many messages popping up when you scan the bar codes of the books. It would be an easy one to use in house in your own library for projects. Encourage your library borrowers to download the app and use it to read and leave reviews on the books you have on your own shelves. Or you could incorporate it into a scavenger type hunt in the library - leaving clues on certain books to be discovered when you scan them using the app. All this depends on the app being made available on both android and apple devices - unless you're lucky enough to own a suite of iPads. I messaged the developers on twitter to see if they were planning an android version. At the moment they are perfecting the apple version and then android is next on their list.

There's mixed views on the Beacon technology. Some people don't like the invasive nature of getting messages on your phone as soon as you enter the library. You do have the option to turn off this function on your phone. As long as there is choice I don't see an issue with it. Unfortunately, like with most new technology, I'm guessing it will eventually be used for direct marketing purposes for brands. So yet another way to have ads pushed upon you when you don't want to see them. I dislike the way that apps always eventually succumb to the revenue generating advertisements.

If I were to pick an app that I use the most on my phone at the moment it's Twitter and Instagram. I manage 3 twitter accounts as well as my personal one, plus I'm trying to build up a work Instagram account at the moment, so it's handy to have them on my phone. I'm loving Layouts at the moment, it's a really useful app for creating a montage of photos together to create an Instagram post.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Thing 21: Creating Infographics

I love Infographics. To me they are a type of art-form and as such they require a lot of skill to make a good one. I have 'Information is Beautiful' by David McCandless on my bookshelf. It's a gorgeous book full of interesting images displaying some very mundane information. Whoever thought a chart on sandwich fillings could be so beautiful?

I think they are a very effective way of communicating statistics in a visually appealing manner and in terms of advocacy I think they would be a very useful tool for libraries. I think we really should use them a lot more. Even as a quick tweet or Instagram image of the monthly or annual statistics for the library. 'here's how we did this month...' Maynooth University Library do it, and they put the info graph on all their computers as wallpaper. Brilliant and inspiring!

Here is my attempt at an infograph, using some of the stats from the Rudai 23 Blog. It took hours! Far longer than I like to spend on something. I do a lot of promotional posters in work, and I can manage the basics and throw together something pretty quickly. Infographs I find a bit mind boggling though. I end up getting bogged down in detail: "how would this look on the left? No on the right? Is that center? Dont like that font? Oh if that was just a smidgen more orange - ah I've ruined all now! Start over..."

 If I was doing this for work I think it would be too time consuming, taking into account all the other responsibilities we have and the lack of staff at the moment. It's a pity because I would love to use this tool more.

I used to create it - not so easily. I found the site a little fiddly to get used to. I use canva a lot and I like it. It keeps any images or logos you might have uploaded for use later, which easely doesn't do. Easely has better templates for infographs though and one feature it has that Canva doesnt is that you can group objects together and move them around as one. This is really important to me.

I tried a quick infograph for work a few months ago using the stats from our summer reading challenge. I made a twitter banner and facebook banner with it and I think it looked good. But that took hours and meant that someone else was under pressure while I put it together. I would like to do this more often. It's important to be able to show off after putting so much work into a big programme like the summer reading challenge. It's really important that other people know about the impact of our work as well and an Infograph is the perfect way to show that. You can see it here. 


Saturday, 7 November 2015

Thing 20: Presentations

I'm warming up to the idea of presentations. I've given a few presentations of varying length and I've learned over time a few useful things. The most important thing you need to do for any presentation is practice, out loud, more than once. It doesn't matter how many times you repeat your presentation in your head, you really need to say it out loud to get the full effect of what you're saying and hear how it's going to sound to your audience.

I recently attended a training day provided by the Career Development Group called Abstract to Audience. It was all about presenting and went through every element to  a presentation from the tiny details of what fonts to use in your slides, to how to overcome those performance nerves.

Because at the end of the day, that's what a presentation is - a performance. You have something to say, and maybe you want to impart some vital information, but you have to find the hook to engage your audience. Whether that hook is in your images, your delivery or perhaps you use a prop, it depends on your personality and who your audience is.

So I've done a couple of presentations in the last few years, mostly to colleagues. They haven't been disastrous, but there was definitely room for improvement. The more I've done them, the better I get at them. I recently did my first real 'outside' presentation at New Professionals Day Ireland's networking event. This was the first time I was invited to speak at an event and for me it was a real honour.
I surprised myself about how not nervous I was. Once I got into my stride I was fine. It threw me a little that the event was in a small room and I didn't have a podium to hide behind. I had my 'story' written out on paper but not having anything to sit it on I kind of forgot about it, and I also had to hop to the side to switch slides which meant I was a bit out of sync between my slides and what I was saying. It's important to be prepared for little things like that - this is where the practicing and preparation pays off.

Here is the presentation that I did, though the slides themselves don't give any great indication about the content of the presentation. You can read a summary of the day here. 

Thing 19: The Legal Side of Things

Image taken from page 58 of '[The River Dee. Its aspect and history. ... With ... illustrations ... by A. Rimmer.]'
From the British Library Flickr Page

By nature I'm a person that likes to follow the rules. I try to be as careful as possible when using images. I make a lot of promotional posters for work so it's important that the images that I use are free to use and not the property of someone else. Sometimes it's just not possible to find the right image though, in which case I've resorted to taking out the camera and making my own, not beyond the realms of possibility. There's plenty of editing tools and apps for phones now that allow you to make a decent looking photo. 

Irish Guards' Mascot - Leitrim Boy
From the National Library of Ireland Flickr page, found via Flickr Commons
My problem is time. Searching for images is very time consuming. I end up wasting hours going through page after page of images and moving onto the next website when I've found nothing on that website. It's hard work finding the right one. I didn't spend too much time looking for the images in this blog post for that very reason. I use the Flickr Commons page quite a bit. Or else I limit my search in Flickr to commons license images. The other tool I use quite a lot is Google Images, I can limit my search under the search tools to 'labeled for reuse' - it's not as reliable but sometimes it does the job. I use Unsplash quite a lot for images, in particular for the Rudai 23 images. 

There's peace of mind knowing that the images you're using are legal. There's a bit of work involved in attributing each image but it's important to do it. Coming from an art background, I've had my images used without credit and it's not pleasant.