To Google…NO!


The above quote comes from that amazing advocate of all things library, Neil Gaiman. I researched extensively to ensure that the quote does originate from him and the answer seems to be a resounding yes. How did I do my research? On Google, of course. Who wouldn’t?

On Sunday last, the other half and I watched a film called AntiMatter, a film about a PhD student at a certain University in the UK who discovers how to move matter – wormhole technology, apparently (that’s the simplistic, non-scientific explanation because I don’t understand it!). If you want to know more, watch the film. It’s really very good.

The reason I have injected this non sequitur is that there is a scene in the film where the main protagonist (we’ll call her PhD 1, to align with the film’s scientific theme) asks a fellow student (PhD 2, D’oh!) a question about where to find some research on a neuroscience topic. Let’s set the scene: PhD 1 and PhD 2 are in the library. We know it’s a library because there are books on the shelf. This, in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily mean that they definitively are in a library, but we know that they are because of several other defining features on the set:

  1. They are both holding books…
  2. There are lots of books on the shelves…
  3. There are other students looking at books…
  4. There is a card catalogue next to PhD 2…

Hold on…a card catalogue? Either this is a very hard-up library (and, given the institution, I doubt that very much!) or the director of the film has a very narrow view of what a library is. But that aside, much as it annoyed me and then annoyed the other half because I ranted, the worst thing about this scene is the answer PhD 2 gives PhD 1 about finding neuroscience research…I’m hoping you guessed it? Yes, she says ‘have you tried Google?’.

Again, this just goes to show that the director, script writer, whomever has no concept of the information landscape or the resources we offer as libraries. Ok, if you are doing some generic research on a particular subject, Google et al would be good places to start. However, neuroscience research would be supported by the most up to date resources imaginable, available via the library and provided to the students through database and journal subs. It would contain authoritative and evidence-based information that Google can’t access as it’s hidden behind the passwords that are provided to staff and students to access the University resources.

So. An example I use with my first year students when trying (sometimes even successfully!) to get them to think outside the Googlebox (see what I did there? I’ll get my coat…) is, think of the web as an iceberg. The bit you can see is the bit that Google etc can see. But this is just a little bit of the information that is out there in the digital environment. Think of all the staff intranets around the world; all the company resources that are provided for staff; all of the medical information contained in secure online repositories, ad infinitum. The majority of this isnt available to search engines because they cant ‘see’ it. It’s hidden.

And that is just it; for these two, Google definitely isn’t the answer. What I would have liked to see would’ve been PhD 2 to sit down at one of the (non-existent) computers and say ‘hey, why don’t you try PubMed?’.

This is why so much of my job is teaching information literacy, or information skills, if you like. So that people (staff, students, users, etc) know how to access the most authoritative information for their research or information need. It’s not all about Google, although it can, as I have stated, be a good place to start and it definitely has its place. But it’s a real eye-opener for some students when they see that they can do so much more with our resources than with normal searching. And it adds such value to their studies too. I think more on this will be forthcoming: watch this space…


Some TEL Reflections…

Next week is my last full week before the new students begin arriving (feels like two minutes since they were finishing). After that, I’m off on a holiday – the last for quite some time! I’m really looking forward to my holiday and intend to relax and refresh after a busy academic year and what feels like an even busier summer! But we don’t really get a summer here at Collegiate as we have students all year round, with March intakes still being on campus until well into August…

So I’m well into prepping for next academic year, and have most of my teaching booked in (a few fingers are being waved at certain folk!). And I am also getting to grips with the TEL applications I am going to use to support my staff and students, but not without problems.

I’ve been using Storyline to create a resource to support our level 6 students; however, as this is a licensed product, we purchase a certain amount to be spread across the university and recently, in the middle of using the product, IT services decided to remove all of the licenses from our department for no apparent reason. Our very wonderful systems team and TEL person are working hard to get them back but it is going to be a very tight schedule to get this finished and up and running for the start of term. My approach to addressing this has been two-pronged: to make sure all of my material is ready to be put into the product when it comes back online; and to ensure we have a fall back resource, in this case I have put together a playlist in that we can direct students to should the worst happen and we don’t have it ready. I really have no idea why IT would do this and no explanation has been forthcoming, either to us or to systems. When they asked, they were told there had been some communication breakdown (cue song…) and the message that our staff were using the product and on a tight schedule had been missed…This is always an issue in a large organisation but surely there should have been some comms from IT going out to staff to enquire about usage? Or is that just me being naïve…?

But I have also had some success with TEL. My video on youtube now has it’s subtitles and I only need to correct a little bit of it. In spite of my fear that the voice recognition software wouldn’t understand my accent, it has proven me (mostly!) wrong. I have to edit the part where I am talking about alternative names (it’s a cob!) as the VR software cant seem to get its AI around the term ‘barmcake’ (bomcake) or ‘teacake’ (tk)! 🙂 Oh how I laughed!

Another success this year, is I began using an app as part of my teaching at level 5 (2nd year). We do a lecture for these students and we talk about identifying the type of academic literature they may encounter, namely primary versus secondary. Previously we have just put up a powerpoint slide and the students shout out what that type of literature is (systematic review = secondary, etc). One of my colleagues discovered Kahoot and so we trialled using it for this activity – with great success! It’s an absolutely hysterical exercise (well, in my class it is!) with the students either discussing it with each other, or, more realistically, taking light relief in gentle banter with their friends (aka taking the mick!). I had two learning points with this though, after the first time:

  1. Make sure you explain the technology properly! The question comes up on the main screen NOT on the students (players) devices. This led to the first question being a non-starter, so I am going to amend the quiz for this year to include a test question.
  2. Tell the students to use a nickname (ok) but remember to tell them to keep it clean and family-friendly! Naughty students! 🙂

One of the reasons for using Kahoot is that it is (apparently) easy to use and understand. It’s very easy to create content, so for a dinosaur like me, it’s an absolute godsend.

Next up is an adventure with Adobe Spark which I am using to create a quick video on why you need to reference material and also one with Screencastify; an add on in Chrome that allows you to record your desktop live, with audio, and upload it as a video to wherever. Much excitement! Watch this space…

In the Summertime, when the weather is fine…and other TEL adventures!

Margate in the sun

So, over the past few weeks I’ve had a bit of a hiatus as I’ve been away on holiday, as you can see from the photo above. It was so lovely to see one of the places I love best and have some incredibly happy memories from, come back to life after quite a long time in the doldrums. The regeneration of the SE coast seems to be going well and to see so many people enjoying the lovely weather and each others’ company brought back many happy memories of my childhood, youth and young womanhood that I was blown sideways a few times. Goes to show what you can do when you put your mind to it…

However, it was back to work and the work still progresses as we are currently working on preparing teaching materials for the new Academic Year…particularly as we have changed our teaching offer to the faculty and are now working towards a more ‘flipped classroom’ model. I piloted this with two of my departments last year, with some success. Having the academics on board and reinforcing the need to do the prep work also helped!

My pilot involved turning our one hour introductory information skills lecture for the first year undergrads into two short videos that they needed to watch before coming to the sessions. On the whole, the students did this work and for this year I have suggested to my Radiotherapy lead that we include this in the induction sessions (waiting for a response, still). The technology I used to create the videos is called Camtasia, and I have to admit I struggled a little with it…however, that said, it does create very polished videos! Last year I merely sent the videos out as an mp4 link, but this year – after a bit of faff that included the dialogue going missing in transit –  we’ve uploaded it to youtube. So I am a youtube star! (Well, a little fame and all that…). You can view it in all its Brummie-sounding glory here:

So next week I am going to be using another TEL platform called Adobe Spark to create a couple of very quick videos for referencing and evaluating information. I’ve just come from a quick update with a colleague on how to use it and have to say that it is remarkably easier to use than Camtasia, and, as it isn’t a licensed product (yet…), I don’t have to use a special machine. I can simply find somewhere quiet to go and record it! 🙂

I’m really looking forward to doing these now, after putting it off and procrastinating because I thought I would have to fight with Camtasia again. Now that I have mastered the technology (I am as a god!), I just need some elocution lessons to sort the accent out. Watch this space…

A Little Bit of What You Fancy…2

So, I am very, very excited. As I mentioned before, I’ve been attending the Occupational Therapy book group this academic year and, although the turnout hasn’t been brilliant, it’s been a fantastic insight into what my OTs think, do, work with, are up against, ad infinitum…However, due to how our courses work, the current lead is now on placement and will be leaving at the end of this academic year. Boo…

But, the other day, I got a message from the lead, asking me if I would be willing to take over facilitating the book group. WOW! was my immediate reaction (one of the lecturers had asked her to ask me if I’d be willing). I’m incredibly humbled and thrilled to have been asked, but had reservations about whether it would fit into my remit or not…So I answered that I would be privileged to take over, but would have to discuss with my manager about time, relevance, etc.

My manager was likewise thrilled and asked me a few questions about how much time it would take etc. As it’s already established, it shouldn’t be too much trouble to hand over and after that it is simply about doing the admin and promotion (which I have in the bag as our management services team agreed to tweet/disseminate through our comms channels at my instigation a couple of months ago…). So I have the go-ahead to try it for this year.

Immediately, though, my librarian head kicked in and I began thinking of how I could support this. I searched for some information on running a successful book group and found a very interesting Radio 4 site: which I am going to investigate before I begin. There’s lots of other stuff on the web, but it is mainly about target audiences and the idea for us is that we open it out to people who aren’t necessarily Health and Wellbeing folk, but who are interested in reading as therapy and mental health issues…quite difficult. I think the first thing I need to do is to either find the remit (which the handover with the current lead may contain) or to write one…(poss with help!).

Anyway…it’s all quite exciting and I talked with my manager about how it reaffirms our role in the University, how it can help me create greater links within my faculty area (they’re good, but could do with being better) and how it also links us in with the wider profession (coming from a Public Library background I have much experience with Reader Development activities – I can bring in my previous experience of working with reading groups in my branch library days!). But first, have to get a meeting together with the lead…hopefully the Chinese curse doesn’t hold true – May you live in interesting times – because it is getting very interesting around here, with the new Uni strategy and my extra-curricular activities! Watch this space…

Post-script to Miss Moore thought otherwise…

Re-reading my blog posts, in the spirit of research and reflection, I realised I made an unforgivable error in the post ‘Miss Moore thought Otherwise’. I mentioned that I got my first library ‘card’ aged 5, completely forgetting that, at this point, libraries still operated the browne card issue method! So, I didnt get a ‘card’, I got a little brown envelope where the issue cards from the books were kept, that had my name on the front of it and lived in a little drawer in the main library desk. No bar codes in 1975! They looked a little bit like this: browne issue system

I was totally obsessed with these little cards and the drawers they lived in. So it’s no wonder that I became a Librarian, really. But it’s got me thinking about how much more there is to the profession, even then. I saw the Librarian at our little branch library as almost Godlike in her ability to know exactly where a particular book was, and if they didn’t have it, she could get it for me! I thought it was by magic, but now I know it was simply the reservation and Inter-Library Loan systems that produced the eagerly awaited volume. She had the power to make or destroy my day/week.

I distinctly remember the first ILL I ever had: it was a copy of ‘The Blue Lagoon’ by Henry De Vere Stacpoole. I had recently watched the film, aged about 12ish, and was determined to read the book about two children cast ashore on a desert island with no adults to tell them what to do (every 12 year old’s dream, I think)! As it was an old book, which I didn’t know until I spoke to the Librarian about it, we didn’t have a copy in the local library, but never you fear, young Karen, she got it for me!

By today’s standard, the investigation she would have to do to find a copy would simply be to type it into Copac and send off for the text in question. In 1982, the process was much more arduous. It would’ve involved microfilm, I daresay. I don’t think I ever expressed my gratitude properly to her, or her very well-trained staff, so, belatedly, thank you to all Bilston Library staff from 1970 to the present day! I wouldn’t be where I am today without you…

Well, where does that leave me? I hope that, in my customer service dealings, I give as much to my customers as I received from the Bilston Library staff. The profession has changed beyond what Mrs Morgan would recognise now (and I know she retired about 1994). But the ethos remains the same: we facilitate access to knowledge and information, we do it with a smile on our face and we have a dedication to our profession that most occupations will never see…I thank my lucky stars I have been allowed into such a great institution and have such enthusiastic, wonderful colleagues and compatriots! Hats off to all Librarians everywhere! 🙂

CILIP Chartership Chat!

A while ago I went along to the lovely Edge Hill University, to attend a talk on Chartership and Registration. I was asked to do a presentation at this event, which I mentioned in a previous post, on my Chartership (#chartership) journey thus far. In the previous post, I suggested I would use this experience as a basis for reflection, as I have never been head-hunted to do anything like this before. While I believe I have good presentation skills, this was a chance to test them out on an unknown audience.

When I have given presentations at work to colleagues it’s always been very informal and relaxed and the topic has normally been one of my choosing. Either that or it’s been to groups of students and that’s very different when you are using the presentation medium to teach information literacy. In the CILIP presentation, I had to talk about a specific subject pre-defined…me! So, I went with the ‘try to be a bit formal and informal at the same time’ method. Not an easy ask…

My presentation slides are uploaded with this post. I went with a narrative style – a little theme running through the presentation – which provided the basis for a more discursive presentation. And this was a good choice as I found out when I got there the other speaker couldn’t make it and I would be leading the session pretty much on my own (but thanks to Lorna, who organises these things and was very stressed!).

Well. How did I cope? I think it went well; I got some very positive feedback and a lovely email from Lorna endorsing how I had managed the session and initiated some interesting discussions. I think the attendees found my presentation interesting: I told the funny story about my old boss and the conversation about not wanting to be a Librarian (in 1997 I didnt really know my calling!), which got a few chuckles. I felt very energised knowing I was leading on this and it’s given me a real confidence boost, both in my presentation skills and also in my ability to lead colleagues in such situations.

So, what now? (in the true spirit of reflection!). I fully intend to become more involved with CILIP – in the chat I had with a colleague last week, she suggested that the North West group were looking for members. This could be a good thing for me to become involved in, although life is a little topsy-turvy at the minute so I will wait until it settles to make any firm decisions. Watch this space…

NoWAL Chartership presentation

MOOC(ing) Around Again!

I’m doing a MOOC again, this time about Technology Enhanced Learning. I have to admit, we don’t do a lot of this at my institution; the focus is still on face-to-face or traditional lab learning. However, some colleagues have made inroads into webinar teaching, with varying results.
My impression of TEL is that it is very subjective to the area of study. For example, our A&D students (unless they are doing GD or some such course) probably won’t be using much in the way of technology as most of their stuff is still in printed form (I know this because, as manager of the serials collection they cause me some considerable headaches!). Whereas our tech students in Computing or Science, say, do engage more with the use of technology for learning.
So saying, I’m part of the Social Media Team and we are very aware that our students don’t use these platforms for studying. They will tweet if it’s too noisy in a study area, but generally if they have an information query they will come to the helpdesk to speak to someone. I’ve encountered very few information enquiries via twitter or FB, and these tend to be from overseas or distance students who are using these communication channels generally to be pointed in the direction of the relevant subject librarian.
One of the reflective questions this week is ‘[Am I] leaning towards one approach in particular on ocTEL, and if so why might that be? Perhaps you are employing strategies from more than one approach?’. The approaches to learning under discussion are ‘deep’, ‘strategic’ and ‘surface’.
I’ve always been a strategic learner: maximum gain for minimum effort. So, I use knowledge already acquired and assimilate this into a strategy for expanding on this learning without too much effort! Ergo, this blog post! I know quite a bit about social media and learning and so I am reflecting on this bit of TEL; the use of social media as a learning tool (discussed a bit further down in the post The Joy of Facebook).
For the purposes of this MOOC, my approach is mostly strategic, with a bit of surface thrown in, as I havent got too much time to devote to it. Plus, I wont be graded on it, so I am not too worried about being top of the class, as that isn’t the point.
As to social media being a valid learning tool…well, again, I suppose this is completely subjective and moves into the area we will be exploring in more depth next week. Watch this space…