Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Thing 8 : Google Calendar

I've set this up, but not yet put anything in it, which rather negates the object of the exercise!

I already have access to an electronic calendar at work through Lotus notes, and I don't get on with that very well. The intention is that meetings go neatly into it when they are set up (great if the person organising the meeting sends it as an appointment, otherwise you have to do it manually yourself). Annual leave automatically displays once it has been approved (in theory, but despite much discussion and several lots of instructions I still cannot get it to say anything other than "awaiting approval"). I have duly set the correct limits to show my working hours, but that results in querulous messages every time I try to accept an invitation to a meeting which falls outside them. Our internal electronic course booking system doesn't talk to our electronic calendar (this has actually caused me to miss things!) It is potentially useful to be able to see other people's availability, especially when trying to arrange meetings, and a colleague recently said that she blocks out time on her calendar for specific tasks, which means that she gets them done instead of being diverted by meetings all the time, so I might try that. Happily I no longer have the onerous duty of doing the timetable for library desks and enquiry points and don't have to worry about covering opening hours.

Google Calendar uses the American order of month first, day next, which is fine when reading American documents but I'm not sure I could adapt to using it myself for my own calendar: it would throw me at the beginning of the month and in the early months of the year (4/5? 7/6? 6/7?), and there's potential for messing up in November this year too. (I'm going to be quite glad in any case once we've got past 2012!) Thinking about this task has made me realise that what I really need to do is to try to return to the habit I had for years of keeping a hard copy diary which I took everywhere with me, with a back-up record kept at home. The only way in which an online version wins is allowing other people access to it, but I already have that at work within the limitations of the system. (My paper diary habit fell by the wayside when an unexpected life event made everything written in it totally redundant for quite a long time!) I also feel I would like to know more about how secure the information is on Google. Would it be possible for anyone undesirable to access the information?

I don't think I'll be using Google Calendar for now, since we have a different system at work and I haven't got a fancy phone, but I might think about it in future, and it's useful to know about it.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Thing 7 : professional networks and face-to-face networking

Before the internet, these were really the only networks. I think things are a little easier for introverts today!

Looking back, the big one which we were all steered towards was always CILIP, or as I still like to think of it, the Library Association. (I know all about the reasons for the name change but still think it was probably a mistake: it doesn't help advocacy, it is not self-explanatory to people outside the "echo chamber", and some people are not sure how to pronounce it - back to thing 3 and branding again!) Anyway, at my library school we were strongly encouraged to join. Then as now you could choose special interest groups - we were pushed in the direction of the then AAL (Association of Assistant Librarians) which has morphed into the Career Development Group. Over the years, as my job has changed, I have variously been in the UC&R group, the Public Libraries Group, the Information Services Group, and the Rare Books and Special Collections Group: the obvious omission for me is the Cataloguing & Indexing group. I'm not quite sure why I've never been in that! All of these have produced useful periodicals - I particularly used to enjoy "Refer" when I worked in a public reference library. I had articles published in "The Assistant Librarian" and I am a reviewer for the rare books group newsletter. Over the years the supply of hard copy journals has dried up, and I have to confess that I hardly ever get round to reading digital versions and suspect that they don't reach as many people - or maybe that's just me.

It's one thing to get journals through the post - quite another to get out there and get involved. While I was going through the chartership process, a meeting for candidates was arranged by the London branch of the AAL, advertised as being in a pub. I and a friend duly turned up, equipped ourselves with drinks, and realised we had no idea who the other people were. It dawned on us that we were actually going to have to go up to complete strangers and ask them whether they were librarians. I can't recommend the experience! Cue, friend and I arguing about who was going to do this and whom to approach. The first one was easy to spot - a shy girl who was very relieved to be asked, tagged along but clearly had no intention of taking the initiative. Desperate glances round the pub revealed two not very prepossessing chaps sitting in a corner. Definitely must be librarians, we decided. There followed a heated debate about whose turn it was to ask, which I somehow lost, and I can remember even now the horror of the two on being approached by three female librarians and accosted. No, they most certainly were not librarians, and let us say that they clearly misinterpreted our intentions. We beat a hasty retreat, and it was only on the way out of the door that we discovered the stairs to a meeting room on another floor (not mentioned in the announcement of the event). I remember nothing of the actual meeting.

Having failed this elementary initiation rite, I didn't get any further with getting involved with groups, which I now regret, as I think that they do have a lot to offer. When my work involved me in area studies libraries I had some involvement with other groups such as SCOLMA, and I edited one of their bibliographies of theses. There are a number of specialist groups like this.

One thing to bear in mind if involved in groups (online or real life) is that they can settle down into being groups of friends, which is fine but can make it difficult for outsiders to join in: it is important to make sure that newcomers are not made to feel that they are gatecrashers at a party. It's also true that there are some people who are really only interested in you if they think you are going to further their careers in some way (both online and socially). They could be wrong! You never know when someone you have slighted might turn up in a position of authority somewhere. 

CILIP membership is not cheap, and I have come close to giving up on it several times, but I'm still in it and I am sure that I am better informed and connected to the profession as a result. (Also, membership/chartership was often a  requirement for some jobs). It's a pity that it hasn't got the teeth of some other professional associations which have a more active role in representing members, but it has got better over the years at making representations about levels of pay.

Motherhood makes attending events away from home infrequent as they require a lot of planning, but I have been lucky enough to attend a number of training events and a couple of conferences: the Rare Books Group conference in (eek) 2003, and last September the CIG group conference at Exeter. The Exeter conference was very enjoyable. I made contact via Twitter with other attendees beforehand and have kept in contact since. I even stayed on after most people had left and went on one of the visits, and ended up writing about it for the CIG blog: Exeter Cathedral visit (a bit cheeky, since I am still not a member of the group!) In previous jobs I have been to events like the London Book Fair and the Online Exhibition, and (once only - it was cliquey - but it might be different now) LA Members' Day. More recently I've been to CILIP Cymru's Members' Day, which was great, but I've yet to get to its conference, about which everyone speaks highly. In my public library life there were fewer opportunities to attend external conferences and courses as staffing was always a problem, but I particularly remember a delightful Tir na n-Og Welsh Books Council event with a Q&A session with children's authors, which led to a very successful day of author visits back at my branch library with enthusiastic participation from two local primary schools. One thing can lead to another!

Recently we have seen the development of CLIC, which brings librarians from different sectors in Cardiff together. Most other parts of Wales already had some kind of network like this, so we were late to the party, but sometimes that means you can benefit from the advice of others who have already negotiated the pitfalls. I feel quite strongly that librarians from different sectors should not operate in silos: we are all in the same profession and there is a lot more movement from one sector to another than some would have you believe. Recently it seems to have become the fashion to denigrate librarians from other sectors who are involved in public library campaigns, and I think if we think about it we can all see why (dividing public librarians from others clearly weakens their position and isolates them). Sadly campaigns to save public libraries are another form of networking today.

"And finally", as part of thing 7, we had a very enjoyable "South Wales CPD23 things meetup" this week in Cardiff, as described by my colleague darklecat. We had exclusive use of a yurt, we had Twitter and blogs to help us make our arrangements to meet, and nobody had to walk around accosting strange men and asking them if they were librarians. Progress!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Thing 6 : Online networks

Thing 6 asks us to explore some online social networks, happily not expecting us to join them all!

I have a Facebook account, but I'm not a heavy Facebook user and I don't often post on my "wall". I use it mainly to keep in touch with friends and family. I don't find it as easy to use as it was (some people's posts seem to appear more than once on the same page, others never seem to swim past at all) and I find the targeted advertising very irritating. Seriously, has anyone ever bought anything as a result of having an ad pop up on their Facebook page? I know I'm not as young as I was, but is it really necessary to go on about my supposedly wrinkly face and the need for Botox/reconstructive surgery/facelifts? I removed the educational details for the same reason (astonishingly, Oxbridge graduates get bombarded among other things with requests from a company apparently willing to pay them to write essays for current students. That is SO not a good idea, in my case!) Still, it's a convenient way of keeping in touch, especially with people you don't see often. What I can't really envisage is the idea of students using it to connect with the library, but I'm willing to be proved wrong!

I don't have a LinkedIn account. I've had a snoop for a few people on Google, strictly for the purposes of Thing 6 of course, and noticed how high up LinkedIn comes in the results. I had a good look at my cousin's profile, which seems to comprise a very full CV with lots of tags (and some surprises - Russian martial arts? He didn't put that on Facebook!). I think the main purpose of LinkedIn would be for those who are or may be actively seeking employment or building a career: it would be a useful part of one's online profile for potential employers and I would certainly think about using it if my situation changes. I do have an account with Plaxo - I was invited to join it by a friend with a Very Important Job (she it was who got me onto Facebook and Twitter, too!). It seems to be for people working at a higher level than I am, although I do get updates telling me about other people in my organisation who are using it. This network is apparently not as well known as some of the others, but it has been around for quite a while :

LISNPN looks fantastic. Too late for me - despite its kind words about not being exclusively for the recently qualified, I don't think I could recycle myself as a "New Professional". It's good to see so much energy and enthusiasm from and for people at the start of their careers - I only hope that there will still be a profession for them to be in! LATnetwork also looks useful. I don't do much teaching but it looks like something that might interest some of my colleagues. Thanks CPD23 for nudging me back in the direction of CILIP Communities, which I haven't been using. I found some useful feeds and blogposts there, and will revisit it soon and edit my details.

However, one stumbling block to all these networks: the plethora of usernames and passwords you need for all these things! I use different ones for everything in the possibly vain hope that this is more secure, and none of them is like any of the public names or obvious words people might associate with me. Am I making life unnecessarily complicated for myself?

Monday, 18 July 2011

Thing 5 : We have no time to stand and stare

For Thing 5, we are asked to consider reflective practice, and to do some.

It's never a bad thing to be self-aware, of course, but the criticisms of "vanity", "self-indulgence" and "navel-gazing" often levelled at the blogosphere are a bit of a deterrent to me. I don't really expect everyone to be interested in what I have to say about my own experience.

So far, with the CPD23 things programme, I've learned a bit about blogging, and this is soon going to be put into practice when we launch our exciting new blog at work for SCOLAR (Special Collections & Archives). I'm only a peripheral member of the SCOLAR team, doing some of the cataloguing and with a relationship with one part of its collection which goes back several years before SCOLAR was even a gleam in anyone's eye. I'm very familiar with my own bit of the collection, but I am sure that there are lots of people even within our own university who don't know what it contains, so I'm looking forward to sharing snippets about it both within our own organisation and beyond. The idea had been floating around for a while, particularly after last year's success in acquiring the Cardiff rare books collection, and it is hoped that the blog will be a way to share news about the collection with the wider world as it is catalogued. The final impetus for being able to do this came in part from the fact that three of us are doing CPD23, and suddenly what seemed difficult to set up was proved not to be.

My own blog, so far, has only been used for the CPD23 things programme, and I have not yet made it very visually appealing (I also realise that I am actually very nervous about using ANY images, and quite paranoid about copyright, but I'll get over that!) Viewing stats have declined steadily with every post - I hope that's because there are so many blogs to read and not because I'm getting more and more boring.

Social media has enabled me to feel connected at a time when child care makes actually going anywhere quite difficult, even at work. No sooner had CPD23 introduced a new set of people to Twitter than lots of people seem to have semi-abandoned it for Google+. I've set myself up on Google+ but haven't got the hang of it yet - my only "circle" is a librarians' circle, and the only people in it are also Twitter followers so far. Something else to get to grips with! Same with RSS feeds - hoping they are going to be useful but needing to remember to change habits can be a drawback.

I think, on reflection, that I have always been reasonably comfortable with the first two steps recommended : recall, evaluate. It's that third step, "apply" what you have learned, which can be the stumbling-block.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Thing 4 : catching up and being left behind

As well as Twitter, we were asked to explore RSS feeds and Pushnote.

RSS feeds
Shame on me, I haven't been using these before now. It's an obvious gap in my knowledge and experience: somehow my eye was off the ball when everyone else seemed to be getting themselves properly set up with them. There are many blogs and websites I occasionally dip in and out of in a rather unfocussed way, so I'm looking forward to getting on top of this with RSS. I have set it all up in Google Reader, which seems to be what most people recommend after the demise of Bloglines. All I have to do now is change my habits and remember to look at it! That's the main drawback with a lot of new tools: habits can be quite hard to change, and we probably all have our own short cuts around the Web, which is fine but you can miss things. I did wonder whether I would use RSS feeds rather than Twitter to keep up with some people whose blogs are the main reason for following on Twitter, though I notice that other cpd23 participants say the opposite (that Twitter alerts them to new blogposts more quickly), so perhaps not! I will be making an effort with Google Reader.

This is completely new to me. I think it's important for librarians to know how people communicate information, so I am not writing this one off yet, but the browser restriction is inconvenient, and at the moment I'm not sure how useful rating things and sharing the ratings would be. I tend to wait and see what early adopters make of new tools, and as they are usually generous in sharing their assessments I'll probably wait for their verdict on this one. It seems to depend on enough of a critical mass using it to be worthwhile. One to revisit later in the programme.

Thing 4 : Keeping up

Thing 4 asks us to look at three current awareness tools, Twitter, RSS feeds and Pushnote.

I'm already using Twitter, as @Ceridwen339. Despite initial scepticism (lots of it fuelled by friends and family who have only encountered it through snide comments in the press), I got past the initial hurdles of "what shall I say?" and "now what?".  Colleague @SarahNicholas's enthusiasm and a request from a friend to join together with an article written by @PhilBradley in CILIP Update got me started. I've been on Twitter since November 2009.

Best advice : persist beyond the first month or so before you can really expect to see the benefits, and make sure you have a biography which tells people something about you. Although it can be a bit haphazard, it's surprising how you do build up a group of people whose links are useful, who are witty and informative, and who on occasion can answer questions quickly for you. You don't have to read every single tweet, and you can use lists to group people to make things manageable. I have quite a lot of non-library followers as well as library ones, and my tweets are a mix of personal and work (I think the non-library followers are more patient with library tweets than the other way round, on the whole!) I very rarely unfollow anyone who is following me back, although I think Twitter has been known to unfollow people at random.

I used Twitter to make contact with people at a conference I attended last year, and have maintained the contact since, which has been very helpful. As I'm not able to go to many such events, I find it useful to follow the tweets of others using conference hashtags. I've found it to be a quick source of news, sometimes including things I wouldn't have found out about as quickly or at all (e.g. the interesting fact that the hotel I was planning to stay in in August shut its doors suddenly last week and ejected the people who were staying there at 7.30 a.m. - still no word from the hotel, and I might not have picked that one up on the news!)

I did wonder at the start whether I should have a separate account for Welsh language tweets, but decided against it; I'm also not keen on tweeting the same thing twice in both languages (I find it a bit repetitive if you can understand both - and it would take twice as long!). I'll probably look at the whole issue of languages and social media in another post, but I'd like to mention indigenoustweets which lists Twitter users tweeting in other languages. (4.4% of all my tweets have been in Welsh, according to its stats, not updated daily).

Twitter has had the effect of making me spend much more time thinking about professional issues when I'm not at work (I work part-time) - which may or may not be a good thing! It's also reconnected me with some other interests that had been neglected. Give it a go!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Thing 3 (Part 3) : Work and play : Never the twain shall meet?

I don't make any attempt to separate the professional and personal sides of my life. I take the view that as a whole person, all the parts are the sum of the whole, and I would find it difficult to keep them completely separate.  Unless you do succeed in keeping the different parts of life firmly in their boxes, one effect of social media is to blur the boundaries. Colleagues have no doubt recently discovered things about me they might not have guessed, and I've certainly had new light shed on the working lives of some friends and family which I would not have known much about before. I try to behave online in the same way I do in real life, which mainly means not swearing in public, and not necessarily sharing political and religious opinions with all comers (but I do have some and they are not all secret!)

As one whose career began in the days when The Librarian was a distant figure who swept past you in the corridor without apparently knowing your name, I rather like the "levelling" aspect of social media: some senior figures in the profession engage readily with those at the beginning of their careers. That's not without its dangers, particularly within an institution: imagine having to sack someone who was a Facebook friend, or a disciplinary issue with someone you have been chatting to on Twitter! Could social media distort a recruitment process? Make difficult decisions at work more difficult?  I'm not in a position of having to supervise staff much now (been there!), but I can see the potential pitfalls.

My Facebook page is fairly bland: I took the opportunity of the recent profile changes to remove educational details, &c., because I was getting some pretty silly targeted advertising, but it wouldn't be hard to work out where I've been and what I've done.  For sentimental reasons, I'm clinging to my film camera - ah, those far-off days twiddling things in liquid and the magic of watching the picture slowly appearing on the film! I know this can't go on forever, I admire the photos which others share, but as I haven't yet succumbed to the digital age there are not many images of me out there. I suspect that a lot of the sensitivity around about Facebook is about photographs.

The Welsh-speaking world is quite small: we brush up against each other in more than one sphere and the idea of completely separating work and the rest of life is even more difficult among the Cymry Cymraeg, especially in smaller places - I bet anyone from Aberystwyth could tell you the religious affiliation of lots of people they know professionally, for instance. (Interestingly, sometimes this world does exist in a separate dimension: you might have a Welsh-speaking neighbour or colleague and never realise that within that Welsh world your neighbour is a famous poet or singer!) Other things can undermine any hope of separating life at work and life outside, too. If you have children, you are thrown together with other people who have children the same age (who could be colleagues, senior or junior, academic staff, or students). My comments refer to academic libraries, as that's where I am now, but for anyone working in a public library and living in the community they serve the boundary can be more of an issue, even without the additional social media factor.

Privacy is maintained by a certain amount of self-censorship, and I'm lucky enough to work somewhere where secrecy is not necessary. On the whole, I think I'm happy to stick with my mixed approach, while bearing in mind the things that might derail it.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Thing 3 (Part 2) : Names


Unobjectionable, easy to pronounce. There were no others in my year at school (the only other Helen I remember at school actually had the same surname as me). At college, a few more, but not in overwhelming numbers. (One of those is now an academic at my place of work!) It was only on arriving at library school that I started to realise just how common a name it was. In my first professional post I was greeted on the first day with "we were wondering if you wouldn't mind using your middle name": I was the third Helen in a small team. In my current post I started on the same day as another Helen, and there are several others. And just look at all the Helens following CPD23! It does seem to be a very popular name for librarians.


"No", I said, "I don't mind using my middle name, it's Ceridwen". Cue hasty change of subject, and no more was heard about using my middle name. Outside Wales, not much chance of anyone pronouncing or spelling this one correctly. (The "C" is hard and the stress is on the second syllable. Ker-ID-wen.) Its heyday was a bit before my time (like a lot of expatriate Welsh, my parents were a bit behind with fashions in Welsh names), but there are more of us around than you might expect. Ceridwen comes from medieval Welsh poetry originally: she owned the cauldron of poetic inspiration, which sounds good, but she wasn't a very nice person. My parents did not realise, and nor did I for a while, that it is used widely within pagan circles, and quite often by people who didn't start out as Ceridwen. It gets shortened to Ceri (usually, though a recent Welsh novel featured a Crid). It's the name my husband and his friends and family use.

My Twitter name at the moment is @Ceridwen339. I'm aware that it puts some people off - too Welsh (tough!), can't pronounce it (see above), or possibly expect Wicca and are disappointed. 339 is simply the number of a house I used to live in. Inevitably there was already a @Ceridwen (she lives in Arkansas) and several variations on Ceridwen with numbers and different spellings, all foiled no doubt by the Arkansas lady (and including a Ceridwen Price). I'm probably going to tweak the Twitter handle (339 isn't a magic number, but maybe it looks that way in conjunction with Ceridwen!)


Another common name, but one which causes a surprising amount of bother. People make you say it and spell it over and over, and claim they have never heard it before. Nobody gets it first time on the phone. I get more financial spam than anyone else in the office. It has nothing to do with money! It's just a boring patronymic.

Helen Price? There must be hundreds. Strangely, several of them are or were librarians (and there's that Sol and Helen Price Library). There are over 80 Helen Prices on LinkedIn, and, inevitably, at least 6 on Twitter, including one in Cardiff. I always used to sign my name "Helen C. Price" and that is how it appears in LC authorities.


I'd been warned by married friends that marriage is a name minefield. I started out intending to keep my own name - well, as a cataloguer, I wouldn't want to mess with that authority heading, would I? Saunders, as well as being another common patronymic, was also the surname of two other people working on the same floor (it's right up there with Helen as a common name!) My intention was scuppered quite early on by officialdom, but I did hang on to my own surname as an extra middle name, which for some reason I thought was a well-established practice (Hillary Rodham Clinton, Elizabeth Barrett Browning), and now I know it isn't. The trend today seems to be moving back to wife taking husband's name. Changing your name brings its own problems. Credit rating? Back to square one. Getting bureaucrats to accept that you are still the same person, ditto. If you are a married woman, making sure you still have enough ID with your name on it, changed or not, to be able to produce documentation for anything, be prepared to do battle. I would really like to know what the experience of couples in civil partnerships in these matters is - I haven't spotted a name-changing tradition developing there but there may be one. I do know one or two married couples where husband and wife have joined their names.

Saunders is also probably on a level with Price for people making you spell it and not hearing it right first time (favourite version : Mrs.Thornbirds) and some people seem not to be able to pronounce it either.

Helen Saunders? Quite a few of those (though fewer librarians!) Helen Price Saunders? Yes, that's me, usually. Helen Ceridwen Price Saunders? Definitely me, but that is too many names!