Andre, you great tattie

Poor Andre Walker. Had he known what a tough crowd the Twitter sect of the information community is, he might have had the sense to keep his face shut. Walker doesn’t seem a particularly bad egg, just a silly one, who made a statement without information or evidence, about an industry he doesn’t work in and a service he doesn’t use. Being a columnist, you’d assume Walker would have done a little fact checking, or at the very least, scoped out his local before sending punchy tweets into the world. Alas, misinformation strikes again.

As you would expect from information professionals, the online LIS community were quick to corner Walker, bashing his ill advised opinion into shape, and in fairness to Walker’s stupidity, he backed down pretty quickly.

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Interestingly what has transpired, at least in my trawl through of replies and comments to Walker, is the idea that libraries must remain open to serve ‘the poor’. In the effort to rescue libraries, both press and politics seem deranged to sell the library as an all encompassing resource for the aged and underprivileged, and I’d like to suggest that this is a little dangerous. Firstly, because it’s really flaming patronising, and secondly because current austerity measures enforced by our government don’t like to consider ‘the poor’. So, dear LIS folk, if our only pitch to stay open is to serve ‘the poor’, as valid and appropriate as that argument is, we’ll be closing doors quicker than the already alarming rate…

“We have already lost 340 libraries over the past eight years and we think that unless immediate action is taken, we stand to lose the same number over the next five years.” Nick Poole, CILIP

Public libraries are a resource for all. That’s what makes them so special. They are a shared service, with pulled resources that everyone can access. Or at least they were. I have used Public, School, University and Specialist libraries in my time; as a child, student and working professional. My loan history has changed over the years, from picture books, to Teenage fiction; contemporary Scottish literature to textbooks, and most recently to audio books and online e-books. But that isn’t all that’s on offer. Use the printer; get advice on public services; make new pals; join a code club or a reading group; trace your family tree; go to a gig; or breastfeed your baby in family changing. These are all services available to patrons at my local, underprivileged and privileged alike. By the count of mere Stokke and Bugaboo prams rolling into Leith’s McDonald Road library of a Monday morning for Bookbug, I think it’s a fair conclusion from my limited research (peering out the window) that library patrons aren’t just the underprivileged.

On the other side of the fence, and even more crucial to the saving libraries campaign is the investment in the information society that we now live in. It’s interesting to me that growing economies, like Japan, have invested heavily in libraries and information sharing resources, whilst we, in our economically questionable Brexit phase are replacing information professionals with volunteers, and closing existing information resources to the workforce, instead of updating and supporting a resource that could further the workforce and by default the economy.

 

Read more here: 14 million fewer books available in libraries than when David Cameron took office | Closing libraries is a fine way to keep the poor powerless | Library closures ‘will double unless immediate action is taken’ | 10 things you need to know about library closures/campaigns | Inauguration of the Japanese Books Library at the Growth Lab in Aundh, Pune | Public Libraries in Japan: Triggers for the renovation of library service models 

 

 

 

 

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Part-Time versus Distance Learning

Fellow Twitter pal, Harriet and I decided to compare our LIS course experiences so far. Harriet is an Art History grad, currently working as a Library Assistant in a University Library, whilst I’m an English Language & Linguistics grad working as a Business Intelligence Consultant on a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) programme. Harriet is studying part-time at Sheffield University, whilst I’ve opted for distance learning at Robert Gordon University. Here are our thoughts so far.

Getting Funding

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Harriet:   I found getting funding for studying the Part Time Masters in Librarianship really difficult. There aren’t a lot of funding options available and currently you cannot get a Postgraduate Loan from the government for this course. I wrote more about funding in this blog post here. I applied for one of the Sheffield University Scholarships and was unsuccessful. Amazingly my employer, every year, sends out an email asking people if they have any studying requirements and I applied for my first years funding from my employer. I was successful and my employer is now sponsoring me to take the course. Hopefully I will get funding for my second year too. I’m aiming to do the Masters in two years instead of three.

cutmypicRachel:   I thought I had funding. I called SAAS in the lead up to my course starting. I had a great chat with a Post-Grad advisor, before completing an online form. All the funding boxes were ticked, and I was partially funded for the year. (WIN!) However, SAAS told me this week, that 5 weeks into my course, they were pulling my funding. I don’t have time to re-apply for alternative funding this school year, so I’ll be self-funding instead.

SAAS has told me the situation had been created due to a ‘comms error’. Apparently they thought distance learning courses were covered by funding, but they aren’t. I’m pretty disappointed with SAAS as a service provider. If I weren’t able to self-fund, I’d have had to drop out.

Studying whilst working

Harriet:   I’m only into my fourth week of studying and working. So far it hasn’t been that bad. I’m generally a pretty organised person, but I do block out times in my diary and on my Google Calendar to study and make notes of the hours I do. Even if I feel like I haven’t done loads, seeing that I’ve sat at my desk in the attic for three hours makes me feel like I am trying. It’s been a challenge in terms of the workload in some ways. We have graded assignments due over the next couple of months and weekly tasks to do. I find the weekly tasks and reading the most difficult because they aren’t all communicated in the same way. We get emails, notifications, areas on our Virtual Learning Environment. 

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It’s pretty sporadic. And we don’t get our weekly tasks always on the day of our lecture we can get them half way through the week. Right now I’m focusing on the graded assignments and putting a lot of work into those. If I miss a weekly task oh well, not the end of the world. I also used to work a lot in some zero hours jobs I have alongside full time work. I’ve had to cut down on that quite a lot. I used to do a lot of weekends, either working a Saturday, Sunday or both, so that’s had to go for now to make room for studying. I’m still managing to squeeze the odd shift in here and there.

Rachel:   Similar to Harriet, it’s still early doors. I’m 5 weeks in, and I’m really enjoying the course but finding that I don’t get much time through the week to complete assignments and course reading. I generally spend my weekends playing catch up. I try to complete additional reading on the bus to and from work. The course can be accessed via my iPhone, so I dip in and out of course materials whilst I’m on the go. This certainly isn’t how I studied the last time I was at university – however, materials are so accessible, I’m finding dipping into things whilst waiting for the tram, or whilst spinning at the gym to be the only way to keep on track with the latest course developments.

Part-Time versus Distance Learning

Harriet’s pros:

  • I love that my life hasn’t been consumed by university like it was for my BA. I get to go to work Tuesday to Friday and enjoy what I’m doing and be good at a job. My life isn’t quantified by how well I did on that essay or that test.
  • MONEY! Having a full-time wage is extremely helpful. I’m not worrying about rent or bills. I’m not working loads around my study (and having my studies suffer) just to be able to live.
  • I work in a library currently and have a couple of zero hours roles in others. Working in a library alongside doing the course is so beneficial. Staff at everywhere I have/am working have been so supportive and pretty much everyone has said ‘Any questions send me an email’ which is so nice of people to do. I’ve been overwhelmed by how supportive the network of library and information professionals I have around me.
  • Studying part time has made everything feel much less terrifying. Looking at the work load I don’t think I could have studied full time and worked enough to meet my financial needs. I was thinking of studying full time due to the lack of funding and I feel like I’ve really dodged a bullet.

Harriet’s Cons:

  • The course is very geared towards the full time/live in Sheffield students. Most of our introductory talks basically felt like ‘Hey part timers this is all the cool stuff you’ll be missing out on!’
  • I would have loved to have done the course in a year and completely focus on it, but that wasn’t practical for me. Sometimes I worry about it taking two years, but I’ve told myself I need to slow down. I’ve always been worried about where I am for my age and how ‘successful’ I am. I’ve taken a step back from that and tried to make decisions that are right for me. I think in the end having this time to work and study will be beneficial.

Rachel’s Pros:

  • Weekly recorded lectures. These are accessible on laptop and smartphone, making access to video content really easy
  • Regular interaction with my lecturers via Twitter
  • Fantastic library resources, even for those miles away. I can access all of my reading materials online, and have access to postal lending if needed
  • A course that fits around an already busy work and home life

Rachel’s Cons:

  • I really wish i could interact with fellow students and lecturers face-to- face. The online systems used via the course Moodle are great, but I’d swap an arm for a coffee and chat through of the week’s lectures.

Career Aims

Harriet:   My ideal dream library job would be to be an Arts Librarian either in an FE/HE institution or in a specialist arts library. Saying that I really just want to explore librarianship and the information sector as much as I can. I’ve recently started working in the Open Access team at work and managing the repository with a team of people. I’ve loved this work so far so maybe this is another avenue I can go down. I see my career, hopefully, as me doing lots of different things. I want to try everything, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be focused in my course and have a general idea of where I want to go and what I want to do. If I get my first chance to be an Arts Librarian at age 40, amazing! If I’m only an Arts Librarian for a few years before I move onto something else, again, amazing! I think it’ll take me a long time to achieve these goals, but I’m excited to see where the course and my career takes me.

Rachel: …can you ask me next year? I see my LIS course supporting the role I do right now. I’m working on a Data Governance project, supporting the GDPR regulation coming in next year and already I’ve taken away helpful ideas from the course that support my current project. I’m really interested in Digital Inclusion and Literacy, so possibly once I’ve completed the course I’ll get a little more involved in that area of study. For right now, I’m focussing on getting through the course. I’ll think about career aims the day after graduation.

Book Review: Business Analysis

Now in its third run, Business Analysis is a key text for anyone eager to use their LIS qualification outside of the traditional library setting. Placing the reader squarely in the IT world, Business Analysis discusses the historical context, development, and future of the discipline, whilst providing the reader with professional techniques, process models and skills frameworks. The text serves as a handbook for those developing information systems to fulfil business operations, whilst also providing a very balanced and valid introduction to the relatively new discipline of business analysis. Filling the gap (read, gigantic fissure) between business needs and business change solutions, the role and skillset of a business analyst has too often been overlooked, often due to the lack of a standard definition across industries. However, this BCS published text standardises and validates the experience and knowledge base of this specialist profession.

Not only for the Business Analyst, I would recommend this book to anyone undergoing change, or looking to instigate change in their workplace.

 

Paul, D., Cadle, J., and Yeates, D. (2014). Business Analysis, 3rd edition. Swindon, BCS Learning & Development Ltd.

 

Book Review: Information Literacy beyond Library 2.0

A sequel to Information Literacy meets Library 2.0, Information Literacy beyond Library 2.0 is in my opinion, a must read for all information professionals. Exploring the shift of the information environment triggered by social and mobile channels, the contributors within this text explore the impact of technology trends on information as well as digital consumption and literacy, whilst sharing case studies to demonstrate trends and suggest theories. Questions are asked, new ways-of-working and theoretical frameworks are introduced, all in an effort to respond to the ‘new’ information literacy.

Key case studies include: Using games as treatments and creative triggers: a promising strategy for information literacy, written by Susan Boyle; and Informed cyberlearning: a case study, by Hilary Hughes.

 

Godwin, P and Parker, J. (2012). Information Literacy Beyond Library 2.0. London: Facet Publishing.

Google it

In an age where ‘google’ has become synonymous with information searching online, I think it’s important for all Google Search users to understand what Google Search is, and how it operates. Formed in a Californian garage, Google is the very handsome love child of Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Both studying at Stanford University during the mid 90s, they were on a joint mission: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” (1)

Google Search, as we know it today is a Web search engine. If you are unfamiliar with this term, think of a Web search engine as a gateway to the World Wide Web. When you google something, you are searching Google’s index of the Web. A common misunderstanding is the assumption that when querying the Web using a Web search engine, you are searching the whole of the Web. This isn’t strictly true. Not only are you not searching the entire Web, you are not searching the Web at all. You are instead searching Google’s index of the web. The Web contains many pages, most of which would be incomprehensible without the help of the indexing of Web search engines. Google’s day job is to find and index information held on the Web, in order for users of Google Search to be able to access the information they want.

Google Search / I’m Feeling Lucky

When you hit search on your Google browser, your computer starts communicating with one (or more) of Google’s servers. These servers contain large databases of the Web’s content, and are accessed via Google’s query engine. The query engine retrieves potential information sources, and the Google algorithm (the recipe for which is top secret) gets to work determining the ranking of the potential information sources. Google Search will then feedback the results of your query, usually with multiple options. These results have been ranked in terms of reliability and trustworthiness by the Google Search algorithm.

The Birth of Search Engine Optimisation

Due to the ranking of pages within indexes, an entire cottage industry has grown up around Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). With many website owners relying on Web search engines to send users to their website, a pay-to-play operational cost has developed around the Web. In order for Google Search to operate efficiently, Google use a ranking algorithm in order to try and return what they interpret to be the best version of the information the user is looking for. In order to do this, Google Search ranks pages and sites, assigning a score to every page contained within the World Wide Web. The ranking of pages by Google is an intricate and ever changing process, which has led to the SEO industry flourishing. In an effort to improve rankings, Webmasters operating outside of Google will try and trick Web search engines – resulting in the ranking process being honed time and time again by the Web search engine owner (Google in this case) in order to filter out this spam.

As with most technology, Web search engines are evolving. Moving from the simplistic tagging of information, to a semantic understanding of the Web. No longer relying on what site owners tell them about their pages, Google are beginning to delve deeper into their knowledge base, aggregating semantic data by analysing the connections between information, as well as the information itself.

Enter centre stage right: Machine Learning.

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Sources: (1) https://www.google.com/intl/en/about/our-story/ http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/z8yc2p3 https://www.google.com/search/howsearchworks