Sunday, 28 August 2011

Zotero oh Zotero!

Together with GoogleDocs, Delicious and a few others, Maestro Zotero was one of the great revelations of 23Things last year. I am still full of enthusiasm for this programme and wish all who need to write whatever - an essay, a book, a dissertation, an article, knew about this programme's existence. I do mention Zotero during inductions to students, especially those more advanced like MA's but haven't found that there was much interest in it among them. It would be good to be able to offer some special training courses to the students on these wonderful, time saving programmes. Ironically, there is no time to do it!
Mendeley looks very similar to Zotero. I will have to look closer at it, create an account and compare the two. After the holidays perhaps?
CiteULike - also later, hopefully...
All three are wonderful tools for researchers, writers, students. I may only regret that these tools did not exist when I was working on my essays and dissertations. Today I can only recommend them and try to explain how to use them (after I have learned more) to those who might need such help in their work.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Documents in the Air

Having documents available online, with the possibility of working on them from different computers and sharing them with work colleagues, has been a dream of mine since I first started working in the library. Especially in this specific library where I am employed. There are nine different locations housing the collections. Access in all of them to the documents created in one place would be perhaps not essential, but very convenient. And so much better than emailing these documents to myself and to my colleagues, copying them on memory sticks and then transferring to the other computers, creating a number of versions of the same thing - a recipe for confusion (sometimes).
There are many aspects of our work where sharing and editing documents online would be very useful. For example all sorts of lists which need constant amending (reading lists, users lists, leavers lists, overdue fine lists) or indexes to classification systems (in our libraries almost every collection has its own classification system and indexes either do not exist or are not very comprehensive).
Discovering Google Docs, thanks to 23Things, was a highlight of last year's course (for me). Unfortunately as soon as I learnt about that, had created the account and started investigating it, a big disappointment came. Docs did not work as I expected!
I blogged about the Google Docs last year. Having read this text today and looking at the documents placed there I do not think that much, if any, has changed since then. Still, formatting of the documents (both in Word and Excel) is different to those in the usual office programme. Still, downloading documents from the computer files (if it is more than a couple of pages in Word or a very simple spreadsheet in Excel) takes a long time. And sharing them - even longer.
With high hopes I looked at this year's Thing 13 (!?) - the Dropbox. At first sight it looks more promising than GoogleDocs. First of all the documents which are "dropped" to the Box from existing folders are uploaded in the same format and with the same features and facilities of working on them as they are in original. As the GoogleDocs, they can be shared with work colleagues who are able to edit them, add to them, create together. But... This is where the "BUTS" start. First "BUT" is that documents can be edited only in those computers (or other e-devices) which are added to the account and have Dropbox files installed. An IT officer may not agree to this (I haven't asked yet). The second "BUT" - the programme is not completely free (only basic and small box of 2GB is free). The third "BUT" - the whole process of "dropping", opening, saving documents is not straight forward. If the document is to be worked on and the changes saved, the document has to be opened from the computer Dropbox folder, not online. If it comes from the online box then changes cannot be saved. There is of course a way- first the changed document has to be saved somewhere in the computer and then dropped to the Dropbox online, but it will not be the changed version replacing the old one but an added second (third etc.) document. A bit similar to memory stick or emailing new versions again.
I have tried this programme using my two home computers and I liked it but if I am not allowed to install Dropbox in five library computers in my workplace, the whole idea would be lost. Back to emails and memory sticks.
The best would be to have a combination of GoogleDocs with Dropbox - the docs online only, with a possibility to amend and save them from anywhere at any time and of course free!
Just dreaming...
Wikis had been looked at and blogged about in the 23Things programme last year too. I do appreciate the idea and all the possibilities which this application offers. Privately - yes, I do use the Wikipedia, as a source of quick and mostly reliable information, no matter how much criticism it receives. Also the idea of contributing to it is appealing, e.g. in cases when one can add the information about events which one has experienced or people who one knows or knew.
At the moment however I cannot identify any particular case in which Wiki(s) may be used at my work except for, of course the Wikipedia - a quick reference "book" without the necessity of going to the the shelf where Britannica lives.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Some thoughts on social networking (in pictures)

Social networking may begin as an individual activity, face to face with a computer, at work, at home, in the internet cafe (seems rather lonely).

The ideas behind Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. of improving communication between people, increasing cooperation among professionals, sharing ideas, meeting more people and making friends online are great and ...

... all these may continue as a social event (usually agreeable).

But sometimes, unfortunately, may end like this (totally antisocial).

Whichever social media and whatever the aim and result of using them, time is a limiting factor. Twenty four hours per day is rather not enough to read, write and comment in Blogger, Twitter, Facebook and all the other social network sites, when one has to eat, sleep, work, watch all favourite soaps and read books too.
I commented on some blogs and tweets I read, I received a few comments on my "creative blog-writing", but I cannot say that the circle of my friends has increased significantly due to these activities. Nobody's fault, just lack of time.

Also, some people prefer more traditional means of communicating and socialising.

To save some time when writing this blog, I have illustrated it more than usual. I believe all the images here express my thoughts better than words (universal language, no spelling and grammar mistakes!)

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Wise and trusted

Parents, school teachers, university lecturers, bosses - they are all people who teach us, are our leaders, our MENTORS, those who we look up to and try to follow their example.

My first mentor was my university teacher, the head of the department I studied and worked at, the supervisor of my MS and PhD thesis. Professor Franciszek Witczak had not just a deep professional knowledge but also all the moral and cultural values which I, and I believe my colleagues too, have learned from him - objectivity, accuracy, reliability, responsibility in all we do, both in private life and in professional activities. All of these qualities, I hope, will stay with me forever. Thank you Sir.

In my second and still developing career, librarianship, I have also been very lucky. From my present boss I have learned all I know so far about this profession (starting from one of the first lessons - putting books in line with a shelf edge, I would never have thought about it before!). I also admire her knowledge, enthusiasm, ability to look at things from different angles, seeing various aspects of problems.
I have started to think of taking my career in librarianship further (beyond a library assistant) thanks to two great ladies, whom I might call my informal mentors. The first of them is my present boss and the second - the leader of the City and Guilds training course in Library and Information Services, both have very much encouraged me to continue on this route, giving shiny examples of how interesting and fulfilling it can be.

After I had become a member of CILIP, the next step was to find a formal mentor. Finding someone who could help on the route to professional librarianship - this was a TASK. The list of mentors, published on the CILIP website, is not short but to find someone who one thinks one would get on well with and who is available when needed, has been, so far, impossible in my case. The first attempt unfortunately did not give any result. The second was equally negative. All mentors were "taken"!
Since then I have hanged my formal PD (professional development) on the hook and continued just working, working and working even harder, participating in as many training courses and local conferences as possible. Now it is time to find a mentor again. Before it's too late!

In the meantime I am continuously and gratefully learning from my boss, my informal mentor, who is not only a very professional librarian, but also a great teacher. Hopefully the skills and experience I have gained under her friendly wings will take me further along the professional route until (and also when) I find a formal mentor to continue the task.

C'est la (ma) vie

Everyone has their unique story to tell. Mine is probably no more unique than those of others.
I started my professional life as a research and teaching assistant at Warsaw Agricultural University straight after finishing my MS in one of the departments there and continued in this career for the next 15 years. I hope I was liked and also respected by my students, I achieved some recognition (conferences, publications) and completed my PhD. Nothing to do with librarianship, not very much with libraries either, shame to admit it - places where I rather went to borrow than spend time studying.
Then I had a 10 year break in my professional life, unless being a housewife and mother can be considered as one of the steps in achieving a higher degree in life sciences.
After that, when the children were ready to let go of my skirt, I started thinking more of myself. The first step was to do some computer courses (done), then to find a job. I found one without much effort (those were the days!) however not in my previous subject but as an assistant in one of the Cambridge libraries. Being more precise - in seven of them at the same time (this is how many of the bigger and smaller libraries were then in the colleges within the Cambridge Theological Federation). I had become a library assistant working for just 12.5 hours a day, climbing up on the ladder on the route to librarianship slowly but steadily. During a little over 11 years of working in the same institution, the number of working hours grew to full time, I finished a 2 year course, completed with the certificate of the Level3 Progression Award in Library and Information Services. Then I became a senior library assistant, worked also part time in another library (in one of the University departments, not a theological one at all), participated in a number and variety of training courses, gained lots of new skills and experience under the very professional and friendly eye of my boss, grew to love cataloguing and really being very fond of everything I have been doing in this job.
A few years ago I had become an affiliated member of CILIP and started thinking about further progress. This thinking developed into contacting CILIP and being almost approved as a Chartership candidate. At that point all career progression stopped. My fault only.
Now that my full time post has been reduced I hope I will have more time for all sorts of activities and I really, really would like to do something more about it. Not long ago I participated in a couple of meetings organised by the Career Development Group of CILIP on career progression and building a portfolio. I think I know what to do now, the only hurdle is just to start. I hope that being a part of cpd23 is also a step in the right direction.

Monday, 1 August 2011

External memory

Evernote, Pushnote, pin a note, write a note ... Notes are very useful things in whatever form we have them. Providing we do not have to many of them and we remember where they are and that we made them in the first place!
Evernote seems to be the answer to it all. Notes are stored in one place, they can be sorted, filed and the best thing about them is that they are available and accessible anywhere and through most of the electronic devices - computers, iPads, mobile phones etc. As Evernote describes itself on its website it is infinitely useful. All sorts of notes (including random thoughts which come to mind in the most unexpected moments) can be created and stored there. Planning trips or events, snapshots of white (or black) boards with important information on them, PDF files, results of internet searches, etc., etc. - all will find their space in an Evernote account.
What convinced me ultimately was the suggestion of keeping a record of favourite wines by snapping a photo of the label instead of trying to take it off the bottle (recently I tried, and tried and had to give up, why didn't I think of taking a photo myself?).
I have signed up!

This is what is so great about all these smart Things - they are accessible from anywhere (all you need is a computer with internet connection, this includes also smaller newer electronic gadgets, which you can carry with you all around the world). Not being an elephant (some people have this sort of memory, sometimes I suspect they make things up, telling us stories, they can do it because we do not remember anyway), I do appreciate any help in remembering things. An "external memory" like Google Calendar, TeuxDeux or Evernote are really great inventions. And they are free!

Reading through the pages of the Evernote website, I came across another online task manager - the Producteev. It seems to be a crossbred between Google calendar, iGoogle, Evernote and probably some more online gadgets. Unfortunately only the basic version of it is free. Subscribing to any of the more sophisticated varieties (bigger storage, better security, email and phone support) has to be paid for.

I am not sure I will use Evernote very extensively at the moment, but I see it's positive sides, not just one more set of ID and password to remember.