Friday, 20 August 2010


For once a 'thing' that I am already quite familiar with. I've been on facebook since June 2007. I know that because that is when I left the UK for 18 months and found it a really useful way to share photos with friends back home. I guess I still use it mostly for this sort of thing, even since I've come back. I send people messages via facebook too, as it is often convenient to do so, although it is rarely as though I do not have their email addresses too. Initially I found it hard to see how a social site between friends could spill over into the commerical/public services world. I guess the principle of sharing information with interested parties does work, if you reduce facebook to this kind of basic definition. I first came across a library using facebook through contact with York Minster Library in early 2009. York Minster currently has 602 friends and uses its page to promote news, invite comment and showcase images from its collections. York Minster Library relies heavily on volunteer support (many of whom are students from the university) and also uses facebook as a way of sending out messages to these people too. This facebook profile seems to work very well and is particularly successful at generating comments and feedback and I suppose, an electronic community.

I wonder whether facebook is offering libraries cheap and easy ways to create something like a website. I'm sure that most libraries which use facebook have websites already, but many of the features are quite similar. Basic information on the library, news, links, enticing images, - even something like a 'number of hits' feature (ie. 602 people like this). Perhaps with facebook, there comes too a sense of belonging and direct communication. Otherwise, I think the danger is that the distinction between 'friends' and 'library' may sometimes become blurred. Mostly, each library needs to decide how appropriate facebook is for its potential users and the tone it wants to set.

Thursday, 5 August 2010


I have been away from my blog and Cam 23 for what seems like a long time (mainly courtesy of the Sussex coast and a family holiday). But now I am back!

Courtesy of Pietro Bellini on Flickr
The last thing I did was create my LibraryThing account and managed to embed a LibraryThing widget in my blog, but had no time to write any comment. I had great fun filling my virtual library with books from my bookshelf. I decided to include everything on the shelf next to my computer, which actually turned out to be an interesting experiment as to how random and unordered those books are. The vast majority of my books are in storage at the moment, so the few that are out, do cover quite a number of unconnected topics. Being the cataloguer that I am, I then had even more fun attaching various tags to my books. Unfortunately, because they were all so different, no two words were used more than once, but I'm sure that would happen if I added a few more books.

The thing which is very noticeable about LibraryThing is how visually pleasing it is as a way of representing a library collection. But as to its real potential value for the librarian/library... There has been an interesting discussion about this on Library Wanderer's blog, with comments from Tim Spalding, founder of LibraryThing. According to Tim Spalding, LibraryThing is definitely not to be seen as some kind of free, pretty alternative to the library OPAC. Instead, LibraryThing's real advantage lies in its enhancement of existing library systems with features such as, tags, wikis, recommendations, etc. While I am a big fan of the standard unadulterated online catalogue as an accurate reflection of a collection, I can see how adding these kinds of features is helpful in making catalogues more attractive and useful to others. People I've spoken to often come to using a catalogue with an Amazon mind-set and it seems to be me that LibraryThing can be a helpful tool in bridging the gap between the traditional OPAC style and the more consumer driven tools.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Taking a bite out of Delicious

Courtesy of Hannah Eve on Flickr
Having not heard of Delicious (like a good many other Cam 23 things), my first thought was that it was not what I expected. I still am at a loss to know why delicious is called delicious. Anyway, that aside, I took the plunge and signed up for a Delicious account. I got side-tracked trying to hunt down a website I had used for downloading free sheet music and realised how messy my own browser's bookmarks were. It made me think how bookmarks are good if you only have a few, but if you keep on adding them at a ferocious pace (or your wife does) they do become less useful. My wife thought Delicious sounded like a wonderful idea, so having created my account, I decided to transfer all of our bookmarks automatically into Delicious and then sort through them there, rather than trying to tackle the bookmarks themselves in my browser. I haven't been able to face going through all 222 bookmarks before coming to write this post, but I can already see how useful this can be. I have started adding my own simple tags to the webpages which I know will make it much easier to keep track of them. It also appealed to my strange cataloguing mind so was actually quite fun. I hope to make use of Delicious now in the future as a way of managing my bookmarks and as it is available on any local computer, this will be very useful as well. I don't as yet quite see the point of searching Delicious for webpages and seeing how popular they have been with other people as I don't tend to ask this question before adding something as a bookmark. If it's helpful for me, then that is usually the only criteria. But maybe I will learn more about this, the more I make use of Delicious.

To say that Delicious is delicious is probably going a bit too far, but I certainly thought it was rather good.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Slides Seem To Be Back In

Slideshare seems a very straight-forward kind of resource. You want a PowerPoint presentation? Then you'll probably be able to find one on Slideshare. No problems so far. The point is though, how often would you want to find somebody else's PowerPoint? I've used PowerPoint in a number of presentations and have attended many more where it has been used. I can see the benefit of getting hold of a PowerPoint presentation after an event, in order to refresh your memory about what you were able to learn (although obviously it won't have your own notes scribbled all over it). But would I want to use somebody else's PowerPoint myself? Presentations are very personal things and PowerPoint has to reflect the logical progression in the mind of the presenter. I would find using somebody else's PowerPoint too constraining. Also, looking at a silent PowerPoint for the benefit of learning about something, seems mostly a fruitless exercise. For example the first three Slideshare items I looked at, I could not work out particularly what they were about or what the logical progression of the slides was. One from Andy Priestner illustrates the point well (sorry Andy - I'm sure you made it into a great presentation when you delivered it). Clearly, this is in need of a speaker to bring the PowerPoint alive and fill in the gaps. I find the kind of video clips available in a lot of online 'helps' very useful because they are designed as a whole package, often including voiceovers or text instructions, but Slideshare does not seem to match this level of usefulness.

My library is often responsible for hosting lectures and talks, many of which may involve PowerPoint presentations. It might be worth using Slideshare to make these available after such events, to the people who attended. Otherwise, because of the limitations I've been describing I can't see a huge role for Slideshare in my library or libraries at large. Having read some of the Cam23 blogger posts, there seems to be a general consensus that Slideshare is a bit limited although thanks to Catherine's 23 Blog for pointing out that it is a good way for getting ideas about what is possible in PowerPoint.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Flickr (better than Twitter)

Thank you Girl in the Moon
Flickr. I love beautiful images, so I am excited about looking at Flickr, which I can't say I had ever done before. I'm very used to uploading my own images onto facebook and had assumed this was something very similar. The main difference which strikes me however, is the difference in audience. On facebook, I upload photos which I hope my 'friends' are going to enjoy. Usually they are pictures of me or of mutual friends. I sometimes include pictures of 'things' (eg. some pretty flowers or a famous landmark), which help to give some context to the album, but generally I know people aren't going to be interested in them. I use facebook photos to keep people up to date with my life and family, so moreabstract images are not going to be used. But Flickr is about sharing absolutely anything with a much larger audience - the interests of which are going to me much more varied - in fact, the one thing they probably won't be interested in is me!

A lot of the images I've looked at on Flickr have been beautiful. However, limiting searches to Creative Commons only, does seem to take a lot of the nice ones away in some of my searches. For example, my hometown of Ulverston was magically transformed into the most delightful place imaginable when I first searched, but adding the Creative Commons limitation, suddenly made it look much more familiar. Searching under 'violin' however, didn't seem to make too much difference. There were still some good crisp arty shots which I thought very stylish. The difference between searching under tags and under full text also brings up different results. For my violin example, the full text certainly seemed more helpful for what I had in mind.

'Violin' search under full text and all images

'Violin' search under full text and Creative Commons

'Violin' search under tags and Creative Commons

Flickr seems to be a good tool for finding images which are definitely free for use by searching under the Creative Commons. Librarywanderer has commented on the fact that as a tool for actually finding images, Google images is actually preferable. I would certainly agree that Google does seem to perform better when it comes to finding exactly what I'm looking for, just under one keyword. My violin search yielded the following result on Google which even a brief glance of the screenshot below will show you that basic, literal violins feature much more prominently.

Google images results for 'violin'

There are some beautiful and useful images out there on Flickr and I'm glad I've finally got round to using it.

By the way, the lovely water droplet picture was courtesy of Tanya Puntii on Flickr. However, I have been having problems adding any kind of captions to my images despite a thorough search on Google and Blogger Help for an answer. Does anyone know how to do this, and also how to add nice tidy borders to images such as appear on everyone else's Cam23 blogs?

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Lost Luggage

(Tip before I start - read the BBC article before you read the Clay Shirky essay - it then makes [a bit] more sense)

Lots of food for thought for an avid cataloguer like myself. Clearly the world is changing and the world of cataloguing is changing too. First, we had the move from card catalogues to the OPAC, and the introduction of the extremely useful keyword search option. Personally, I still find being able to use a range of search options from keyword to browsing something very specific (like author) very useful and in fact the more options there are the better really. But in terms of online material and the ability to dispense with standardised categorisation altogether, this is quite an innovation.

I found Shirky's comments useful in describing some of the philosophy behind how we go about classifying the world - both in the past and now. I think for librarians it is a very unsettling thought to think that there are no shelves on the web and indeed no books. I rather think that the librarians which Girl in the Moon sourced for us from 1947 would be horrified by this concept. I have to admit, that my instinct is always to want to classify correctly. The idea of tagging my blog using words which are anything less than 'accurate' does seem to go against something deep within me. As I was reading Shirky talking about the difference between people into movies, film and cinema, I found it difficult to constrain myself from crying out 'but they are the same thing! and surely I would want to find them all together!'

I have to admit that as Shirky's article went on, the more lost I became. I do recognise his overall point that simply imposing a philosophy of arranging the information of yesteryear will not work when it comes to the internet. But I just don't feel qualified to comment on whether tagging is 'better' as a concept than using standardised terms. I have always felt that the more options we have of searching for information the better, as no one system ever seems to be flawless. So for example if tagging is able to provide people with a another complimentary approach to searching an OPAC, this can only be good. The Ann Arbor District Library example is certainly incorporating user tags, but only alongside the 'traditional' system.

There are simply some things I don't understand, so I'm going to end with some questions. If anyone out there would like to answer any of them for me, I would love to read your comments.

1) How does a Google search actually work? How does it retrieve webpages of interest?

2) If tagging is an effective way of retrieving information, is this simply down to the sheer volume of information and web pages on the internet and the likelihood that somebody somewhere will use the same language as me? What if people become a little too individual?

3) What about the person who wants to find information on movies but searches under cinema? How does a tagging approach help them?

4) Have I just seriously lost the plot?