All entries for April 2007

April 26, 2007

Blogs and wikis – an advanced training course

On Tuesday I attended a very informative course on blogs and wikis. I wasn’t too sure what to expect as I’ve learnt a lot about both lately. However the course tutor Phil Bradley clearly spends a lot of time online and I learnt a lot. Not only that, but I had the time to explore things that I don’t seem to get round to on a daily basis.

We started by looking at Weblog search engines, looking for our own blogs and how to improve our blog ratings. We then looked at others’ blogs and tools that can be added onto your own blogs and webpages such as Gabbly and My Plugoo. Features like these instant messaging tools seem to be what youngsters are using these days in preference to e-mail, so perhaps they could have potential for enquiry services.

We also looked at RSS feeds and adding images and multi-media files to blogs, even a tool to create a podcast of your blog (Talkr).

There are various bookmarking tools and file sharing services out there, as well as wikis. We looked at a couple of Phil’s favourite social tools, pageflakes and zimbio.

I expect it will take me ages to re-visit some of these tools and to explore some of the many references I have taken away from the day. I certainly have a lot to think about and feel much more informed about what technologies are out there on Web 2.0.

April 23, 2007

Highlights of the Library and Information Show

Last Wednesday I attended the Library and Information Show at the NEC in Birmingham. It’s a fairly small affair these days, compared to what it used to be.

I visited the stands and attended free seminars. I saw a demonstration of the Nordplan mobile shelving that I believe we are getting in our library as part of the summer re-modelling work. Certainly it is the shelving that we are having installed in our external store.

SirsiDynix showed me their portal and a new search interface that helps users to select more search terms to refine their search. I also saw a similar search term suggestion feature in a product called “AquaBrowser”, so I expect to see similar search building functions on other products very shortly. It’s not really a big development as you could always select a search term from within subject headings in a library catalogue record, and then you could add your keyword to that in the advanced search screen, but it is another way of presenting these kinds of search options to the user that is probably more user friendly.

Two of the free seminars I attended were Sheila Corrall’s presentation on information literacy which gave me much food for thought and Karen Blakeman’s one on Blogs, Wikis and RSS.

Sheila Corrall’s talk was interesting as she’s a good speaker, although she was preaching to the converted really. I listed the kinds of contacts that Sheila said librarians ought to have (in an IL context) and am pleased that I can tick all the boxes: key skills tutors; staff developers; careers advisers; learning technologists; instructional designers; data and infrastructure managers.

Another point was that Information Literacy ought to feature in libraries’ mission statements: can’t say its explicit in Warwick’s mission statement, although you could argue that it is covered. I have linked to the University of Warwick Library’s strategic plan which features the mission statement so you can see for yourselves.

I asked Sheila about her assertion that we should develop online tutorials as I believe that there are already lots of tutorials of varying quality. Is there are role for CILIP in helping us to identify and use what’s already out there, rather than us all re-inventing the wheel rather badly? Sheila’s answer did not suggest anything specific for CILIP, although she agreed that there is a lot of online information literacy material already, and referred me to Alan Brine and Ruth Stubbings’ evaluation of online tutorials that could probably do with some updating.

This is an interesting article, but was published some 4 years ago now. At the time 47 institutions had an electronic information skills tutorial. How many more must have them now? Are the tutorials so tailored to individual institutions that we couldn’t share or would it be a better use of our time, skills and technology if we were to share materials or reference each others rather than creating our own?

A quick look at JORUM identifies a handful of information skills tutorials, so it appears that we aren’t sharing much of what we’ve created… at least not through JORUM.

Karen Blakeman’s talk was also interesting: she presented her “anatomy of a blog” and talked about the limitations of using a wiki. The main feature of interest for me, though, was what she had to say about RSS feeds. I’ve been well aware of these since I worked at LTSN Engineering at Loughborough in 2000 and we set one up there, but could not really see much of a use for them beyond being an interesting & dynamic feature on a website. I still don’t like the idea that in order to subscribe to an RSS feed you need a separate aggregator. If it doesn’t arrive in my inbox then I don’t want to bother with it! But Karen’s presentation convinced me that there are enough people out there who do use RSS readers and are getting value from them, not just being swamped with even more information.

For some time now I have felt that there is probably a need for librarians to identify useful RSS feeds for our academic community, to educate them in how to identify good quality ones and to give them the skills to use RSS feeds and e-mail alert services alike in order to filter information and find material that is useful to them, without being swamped. Time for some more exploration, I think!

April 17, 2007

Researchers' use of Academic Libraries and their Services

Writing about web page

The latest RIN report (April 2006) Researchers’ use of Academic Libraries and their Services deserves careful analysis. It is a survey contrasting the views of academic librarians and researchers on the subject of how academic libraries do actually support research and how researchers interact with academic libraries.

Even though the report highlights, among other things, the challenge of making library materials findable for research, it is a different report from the earlier one (November 2006) Researchers and Discovery Services: behaviour, perception and needs.

The survey provides an average among a mix of institutions with very different profiles and priorities (72% of librarians surveyed work for “pre-1992” institutions and 24% work for “post-1992” institutions). For this reason I would recommend to read the appendix before the report itself.

April 16, 2007

Too much information? How to manage it!

Writing about web page

The JISC guide I’ve linked to has some simple tips on how to manage file versions, standard ways to name files, advice on when to send and how to file e-mail etc.

It’s quite an easy to read, common sense approach to information management in a workplace context.

April 10, 2007

When was it last updated?

Writing about web page

One of the things that we recommend to students as a clue to the reliability and quality of a web resource is when it is last updated. But how do you find this out?

Sometimes the page itself tells you, but sometimes you can investigate further yourself. Two handy methods are described in Phil Bradley’s Q&A in the CILIP update, which I’ve linked to.

One is:
Use Firefox as your browser, click on ‘Tools’ and scroll down to ‘Page Info’ where you will see the ‘Modified’ date, amongst other information.
The other tip is to type in the address bar:

Once you know when a page was last updated, what that information actually tells you about the webpage is another matter. Sometimes an abandoned web page is a sign of one that should not be relied upon, and at other times the fact that it was written at the time of a particular event can make it more valuable as a source.

The University of California Berkeley Library’s guide to using the Internet and evaluating web pages states that “Undated factual or statistical information is no better than anonymous information. Don’t use it.”

April 03, 2007

Open, Open, Open… Access: getting published, discovered and read

Writing about web page

Open Access (OA) is about researchers getting maximum exposure for their research. What better way than to make research freely accessible to everybody?

Publishing in OA electronic journals is one way to do this. There are reputed OA journals with a high citation impact, but not every research paper is necessarily going to find a place in a suitable OA journal.

Self-archiving in a repository is another way of getting exposure. There are of course subject repositories, for subject-relevant research produced in any institution, and there are institutional repositories as well, for any research produced in the researcher’s institution.

Not all subjects will have a decent repository somewhere. So, the easiest way for researchers to get exposure for their research and therefore maximise the chances of it getting read and cited is to use the institutional repository (IR) of their employing institution.

Yes, it is as simple as that. The IR manager takes care that the repository data about the paper is optimised in such a way that makes it discoverable by those searching around the topic.

Or is it not so simple? Authors should not have to sign off their right to self-archive their research for the sake of getting published by a particular journal. The RoMEO directory allows authors to compare the copyright policies of different journals or publishers and then check directly the most updated version of the policy by linking directly to their sites.

Funding bodies are increasingly mandating self-archiving of the research they fund. A list of these is kept on the JULIET pages, besides the information of RoMEO.

Many academic researchers will also be doing some teaching. There are initiatives to provide open access to course materials.

One such initiative has coined the term Open CourseWare. An example of an institution going Open on its teaching materials is MIT:

April 02, 2007

Plagiarism detectives in breach of copyright?

Writing about web page

Incredible – what will they think of next in this tangled web of legal nonsense! Apparently some US students are launching a law suit against Turnitin because the plagiarism detection software relies on copies of their essays being submitted to the software company. If only their school had thought to have the students sign a declaration that the copyright to all their schoolwork belonged to the school who could do what they wanted with it…

April 2007

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