Thing 13 – Google Docs, Wikis, and Dropbox

Google Docs (or Google Drive as it is apparently now called – I haven’t used it for a while!) I have used this in the past for personal document sharing rather than for work, and have found it very easy to use. At work, I don’t get involved in collaborating on documents very much, and when I have done so, we tend to use email to pass it back and forth, sometimes because the person I’m collaborating with won’t have heard of Google Docs and wouldn’t be very keen to use it, and sometimes just because there aren’t going to be many edits. We also have a shared drive that is generally used for storing documents that others might need to refer to.

Dropbox Now, this is something that I’ll be using at some point I’m sure, because I can see that it could be a very useful way of sending a large file to someone else, or to myself at another location. I have used something similar in the past (YouSendIt, I think it was called), but have long since forgotten my login details, so signing up for Dropbox is very timely.

Wikis I have looked at other people’s wikis, but never added to one or initiated one myself. At the moment, I can’t think of any particular use for one in my work, but it’s certainly something that I will bear in mind should the need arise.

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Looking at these collaborative tools has made me realise how little I collaborate with other people at work. Is this because my job doesn’t require much collaboration (I’m a cataloguer and in charge of data quality at my library), or is it that I’m not very good at collaborating? I think this is definitely an area worthy of further reflection, and perhaps finding out how other people doing a similar role to myself collaborate and who they collaborate with.

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Thing 12: Putting the social into social media

I am still trying to work out how to interact with social media. I’ve never been a great one for Facebook – partly my age and partly because I just don’t want to spend the time interacting with friends in that way. I look at Twitter most days, and probably tweet several times a week, but I’m not an avid user. Thinking about it, I put this down to two things.

Firstly, time. I don’t seem to have time in my working day to check Twitter, and as I mostly use it for professional matters, I don’t always want to do this from home, although I often end up doing just that.

Secondly, I’m sometimes not sure about the etiquette on Twitter. I’m a bit on the quiet, shy side by nature, so I don’t always feel comfortable joining in conversations – I’m never sure if that’s rude or not. It’s much easier in real life to work out what’s ok to join in and what isn’t.

And thirdly (I know, I said there were only two things, but you know how it is once you start thinking!), I think I could do with finding some more people to follow to get a wider range of potential interactions. I must follow this up with some of the CPD23 participants, perhaps, to find some other librarians who tweet.

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Thing 11 – mentoring

I have generally thought of having a mentor as being part of the Chartership process – someone to help me through the trials and tribulations of Chartership, who can offer suggestions and advice on my portfolio, and can pass on their experience of the process themselves. I have also heard of other mentoring schemes in the workplace, and I sometimes think how useful this could be, especially for someone who is new to a company or has been promoted to a new job with added responsibilities.

However, this Thing has got me thinking about having a mentor myself outside of these circumstances, and I’m not sure that I could see how it would work for me. I don’t have any particular goals that I’m aiming for at the moment (other than keeping my job as my institution restructures), and while I quite like the idea of having someone who takes an interest in my career, I am not sure what I could bring to the relationship in return. The experience described by Meg Westbury sounds very fruitful, but I’m just not sure that it would work in my situation. I think that I am gradually getting enough contacts in the cataloguing community to ask questions and get advice when I need it, and I think for me, that is enough for now.

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Thing 10 – graduate traineeships, Masters degrees, chartership, accreditation

This Thing is about professional qualifications and professional development. As I mentioned in Thing 1, I came into librarianship late in life and it seems that I am one of the few people who took an undergraduate degree in librarianship as I missed out on the whole university thing straight after school. I really enjoyed the degree and would love to go on to do a Masters as I love studying, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford to do it and I’m not sure there is any point from a career point of view.

I think it would be more useful for me to work towards Chartership, and this is something that I intend to do at some point – I’m just waiting for the right time, although I’m sure there will never be enough time! Having looked at what’s involved and attended one of the introductory sessions, I’m still feeling rather confused about how it all works, but one of these days I shall turn my attention to it and get on with it.

Perhaps part of my inability to embark on the process is that chartering is not a requirement of my post and there is no financial incentive to become Chartered. My reasons for Chartering are more to do with personal achievement than career development, and at the moment, that is not enough of an incentive to push myself through the process. I also wonder how much it will help in terms of personal development – I do quite a lot of development activities anyway so I am not entirely convinced what I will gain out of the process other than a few more grey hairs!

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Thing 9 – Evernote

I had heard a few people mention Evernote but was never sure what it was all about. Having read this Thing, I realise that it is very like the Microsoft OneNote that I have been using for several years, having originally come across it when doing the dissertation for my library degree. I have mentioned this tool previously and have found it very useful. I have been a bit disgruntled with it recently as for some reason it keeps crashing on my work computer when I first open it up, so I was interested to look at Evernote to see if it would offer any advantages.

Rather than downloading an application that I might not want to use, I opted to watch some of the introductory videos first. One thing that looks really useful is the ability to access your notes from any device by syncing your content. I don’t currently do this with OneNote, but I think it is possible so I must look into that so that I can access my work files from home when the need arises. I think there is also a mobile version which I must investigate too.

My main concern with Evernote is that it is free (which you’d think would be a plus…) but my concern is how long will this particular service be around and do I really want to invest my time and energy in something that I can’t guarantee that I will have access to on an ongoing basis? I think for now I’ll stick with OneNote, even if it is a Microsoft product 😉

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Thing 8 – Google Calendar

I’m disappointed that I’ve got so far behind with CPD23, but I guess life/work has just been too busy to give it any attention. I would dearly like to finish all the Things, so to try and make up some lost time, I’m going to clatter through the next few as quickly as I can.

I have looked at Google Calendar before, but never been one to use it much. For my work life, I use Outlook to keep tabs on what I’m doing and when, as well as to diarise reminders to myself to follow things up, prepare for a meeting, or get in touch with someone. I really like the ability to have it throw up reminders – if it didn’t do that, I’m sure I would forget lots of things. However, having my calendar on Outlook does mean that I can’t take it with me to meetings as easily as if I had a paper diary (which I religiously order each year but rarely use). I guess, like a lot of things, there is no one system that covers all the bases and so I muddle along reasonably well in the meantime. I think, on balance, it’s more important to have a system that will issue reminders than one that is portable. Plus, we have to fill appointments in the shared work calendar in Outlook anyway, so while I’m there, it’s easy enough to copy them to my own calendar.

In my personal life, however, I am much more old-school and use a paper diary. I find this much more convenient – both for adding new engagements and for checking what I’m doing on a particular day, than having to start up my computer or find my glasses so that I could read my smartphone screen!

It hasn’t really struck me before how differently I treat these two areas of my life, but I think it seems to work well for me at the moment.

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Thing 7 – Real-life networks

Like a lot of people, I don’t find real-life networking all that easy, but I try not to let that put me off too much. I’ve always been one to ‘join in’ – from the local village hall committee to being a school governor, I have always enjoyed giving my time back to organisations that I’ve benefitted from myself.

I have carried this on in my life as a librarian too. A few years ago, while working as a slide librarian/visual resource manager, I joined ACADI (Association of Curators of Art and Design Images) and even chaired one of the meetings. This was such a great network to belong to and I learned a lot from the others who attended the meetings or who shared their image management problems on the mailing list. While in that job, I was also lucky enough to get funding to attend the Visual Resource Association (VRA) conference in Toronto. It was really enjoyable, and so invigorating to meet so many others with similar professional interests. I went with a couple of other librarians from the UK, one of whom had been the previous year and seemed to know everybody! This was really useful in terms of getting to talk to lots of people – I think it would have been a very different experience if I had gone on my own. However, the experience was very positive and it was a great opportunity to share ideas with others in similar situations.

In my current job, I have joined the ARLIS Cataloguing and Classification committee, more by luck than judgement. Initially, I thought it would just involve going along to some meetings and looking after the committee’s web page, but I quickly realised that good committees need active members, and although this means that I am sometimes (often?) outside my comfort zone (presenting at one of our workshops, for instance), I am learning so much from these experiences and from the other committee members, that I am really glad that I joined. It’s a great way of increasing my knowledge of the cataloguing world beyond the walls of my own institution.

More challenging are the networking opportunities when I attend an event or a workshop. In these cases, it is likely that I won’t know anyone and I have to make much more of an effort to start or join conversations. I do try my best, and am gradually starting to recognise a few faces now, but it is definitely outside my comfort zone. I am going to the CILIP CIG conference in Sheffield in September and that is really going to test my nerve. I’ll make sure that I read Joeyanne’s blog post on networking for introverts again before I go, although the bit about the elevator pitch freaked me out a bit – maybe I’ll leave that for another day!

[my sister is not going to thank me for that photo – but at least she has a whole bathing suit on!]

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Thing 6 – Online networks

After reflecting on the online networks covered this week, I realise that this is an area that I don’t get involved in very much. I use Twitter – a bit – and I make contact with other professionals via mailing lists, but other than that, I don’t seem to “do” online networking.

I do have a Facebook account but it is purely for personal use, and to be honest, I hardly ever visit it these days. I don’t have a LinkedIn account and at the moment I can see no real advantage to having one. If I was particularly ambitious or if I was looking to move jobs, I could see that it might be useful as a way of networking, but at the moment it doesn’t feel necessary. I also had a quick look at LISNPN and CILIP Communities, but neither of them seemed to offer much of interest to me either.

I think my reluctance to get involved in these social networks is partly due to maintaining a balance between the time involved in taking part versus the benefits of taking part. At the moment, I don’t feel that the benefits will outweigh the time factor, although I guess that’s hard to judge if I don’t put the time in to start with! But I feel that I spend enough time on work-related activities when I’m at home anyway (CPD23, for a start!) so for the moment, my involvement in online social networks will stay pretty limited.

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Thing 5 – Reflective practice

Image

Now, let me think…

In some ways, I consider myself to be good at reflection – some might even say that I do too much of it – but I am also aware that it’s all too easy to go to a workshop or event, or read an interesting article, and then forget about making use of what you’ve learned.

When I attended courses many years ago, I found that having to write down “one thing that you’ll do differently when you get back to work” was such a chore and  I often wouldn’t put much effort into it. But now that I’m older and wiser, I have learnt that if I don’t put some effort into doing that, I might as well not have gone on the course or read the article in the first place! I can’t say that I’m always as diligent about this as I should be, but I know the theory and try to put it into practice as often as I can.

As far as the tools that I use, I am a great believe in pen and paper and find that I think best with a pen in my hand (a uni-ball eye micro, if you must know – it makes all the difference!). I try and make some notes as soon as possible after attending a course or other event and will often do this on the train on the way home.

More recently, I started transferring those notes to my OneNote notebook. OneNote, for the uninitiated, is part of the Microsoft Office suite which I discovered when I was doing my library degree a few years ago. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a bit like having a whole load of sheets of paper that you can jot notes on and then organise into folders and add tags to make it easy to find things again. I also use it for making notes while reading something online, or even putting a copy of a document, such as a pdf, onto one of the pages and annotating it as I read. It’s a great way to store these reflective jottings and it makes it easy to refer back to them at a later date.

I like the simple mantra of “What? – So What? – Now What?” and will definitely incorporate this into my reflection in the future. It’s short, it’s snappy, and will really make me focus on what I’ve learned. The other thing that I’ll take away from this is that reflection doesn’t always need to take a lot of time – it’s better to do a quick postmortem than let the moment pass and do nothing.

Taking a look at this from the other side, it’s also good to think beforehand about what you’re hoping to get out of an event or meeting to focus your mind on the issues that brought you there in the first place.I found this incredibly useful when I went on a “Getting Organised” course a while ago. Thinking through my particular issues beforehand allowed me to revisit them afterwards and see what I could apply from the course to solve them.

Needless to say, I’m not convinced I can ever get as organised as I’d like to be!

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Thing 4 – Current awareness

Keeping up to date in libraryland is definitely one of my priorities. As a relative newcomer to the profession (and rather later in life than many others), it feels even more important to know what is going on outside my institution so that I can put my decision-making into some sort of context. As a cataloguer, I’m aware that sticking to standards is getting ever more important in a world of shared and linked data, and knowing how others approach the issues that I face day-to-day is a big help in figuring out the way forward.

Of the three Things to be investigated this week, I use RSS Feeds the most for current awareness. I subscribe to loads of blog feeds, using Outlook to manage them. The feeds come into a folder in Outlook and I can easily have a quick look through the list first thing in the morning and catch up on all the news.

Allied to this are all the Mailing Lists that I subscribe to, again using Outlook to organise them. Each mailing list gets put into its own folder so the messages don’t clutter up my Inbox and I can read them at my leisure when I have a bit of time. Again, I will have a quick whizz through first thing in the morning, and then periodically throughout the day when I need a break from whatever else I’m doing.  I’m really happy with both these methods and feel that they do a great job in keeping me up to date.

Twitter, on the other hand, I don’t find so useful for current awareness, in spite of what a lot of others say. I have been on Twitter a while now but have yet to really feel comfortable there, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. I really haven’t got the hang of the etiquette, such as when it’s ok to join in a conversation and when that would be perceived as ‘butting in’ – I often feel that I am eavesdropping on a conversation that wasn’t intended for me to listen to! Its usefulness for current awareness isn’t helped by the fact that I don’t look at it during the working day and by the time I look in the evening at home, I’ve missed a whole day’s worth. However, one thing that I did pick up on Twitter recently was that CPD23 was running again, so maybe it does have its uses! I know I need to persevere with it and try to be a bit more pro-active about sharing useful stuff on there myself, so I’ll try and make more of an effort in the future.

I hadn’t come across Storify before, apart from vague references to it on Twitter (hmm, beginning to see that Twitter is keeping me up to date more than I consciously realised!). Having had a quick look at it now, I can see how it might be useful for presenting an overview of a particular event or current topic, but I am not sure how often I would actually find it useful. Maybe next time I go to a workshop or conference?

I also had a quick look at Scoop.it and Paper.li which look interesting, but to be honest, it’s got a bit late tonight to do more than acknowledge their existence. Again, I don’t think they will feature heavily in my life as a cataloguer!

Final thoughts: I was surprised Mailing Lists weren’t on the list (they might be old technology but if you subscribe to the right ones, they are buzzing!), and I need to get a grip of Twitter and stop being a scaredy wus!

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