Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Just start writing

This post isn't strictly about librarianship. It's about studying IT and librarianship. But hopefully, it'll be helpful to someone out there.

I'm writing an assignment at the moment on e- and m-learning and how my library can embed our services in these environments at our University. I struggled for almost a week with the readings, trying to frame my argument, trying to decide how I was going to approach the topic. At first glance it seemed so simple, but once I delved into the readings, it got way more complicated.

My 'aha' moment came last night: I know this stuff. I know what libraries do in the e-learning and m-learning contexts. We embed ourselves in learning management systems, we create online tutorials, we offer key services via mobile devices. And so I started writing. Ignoring the literature, I just wrote and wrote until I was finished putting all my thoughts down.

After that, I went back to support my thoughts using the literature.

This might seem obvious to everyone else, but it really was an epiphany to me. Top assignment-writing tip: Don't allow yourself to get bogged down with the literature. You know this. Start writing.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The social scholar

Whoops. I forgot to post for a while...

I've settled on a topic for my dissertation and have started giving talks about my research. I'm calling it "social scholarship", but it could be digital scholarship, or networked participatory scholarship, or even open scholarship. It's about how researchers use social media during the research process: from conceptualisation of the idea for research to dissemination of the research output.

Here are the slides:

Monday, May 27, 2013

You need to dress professionally, Part the second

I wrote a while ago about dressing professionally. Here's a great related post by Sarah Houghton at Librarian in Black.

Not everyone thought it was great. One of the commenters on her post said: "Just one of the reasons librarians are not taken seriously which results in inadequate pay and status."

Oh dear. The debate continues.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Research data management

There's a lot of talk in our Library lately about research data management. Our institution is in the process of creating policy around research data and the question in the Library is "How will we support research data management?"

A look at the literature tells me this isn't a new topic. Academic libraries overseas have already tackled the issue of data management and some have created libguides and web pages about it. The support provided by these institutions seems to focus on assisting with the writing of a data management plan and consulting on steps within the data management process, like file format conversion, metadata creation and the choosing of an appropriate repository to archive the data.

I'm interested in how we will approach this topic. What skills already exist in our Library to support research data management, and how much training will be required so that we are able to meet this challenge? My sense is that there is a handful of librarians who are aware of the issues and who have enough of a foundation to begin to support data management. But the roles need to be thought through: will this become another aspect of the subject- or liaison-librarian's job? Or will it be a specialist task, reserved for staff in a new "Digital Scholarship" centre in the Library?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Thoughts on social scholarship

My assignment this week was to examine social scholarship. There seems to be a number of terms for social scholarship, including open scholarship and digital scholarship. The definition I found most helpful was this one from Veletsianos and Kimmons:

“the open scholar is someone who makes their intellectual projects and processes digitally visible and who invites and encourages ongoing criticism of their work and secondary uses of any or all parts of it – at any stage of its development.”

We were asked to explore the use of social media tools by researchers, academics or scholars - whatever you want to call them - to disseminate or enhance their research and to aid in the research process. 

It was interesting looking at the various tools that are used by researchers. Many use the common ones - Academia.edu, or LinkedIn - but what was more interesting for me was the use of tools like Twitter, Scoop.it, Slideshare and blogging. One of the common threads in the literature on this topic is the use of these tools for crowdsourcing of research and to discuss the research process - as Veletsianos and Kimmons put it: inviting ongoing criticism...at any stage of development. And yet what I found (in my tiny, unscientific study) was that the researchers I looked at didn't use the tools for this purpose. For them, it was more about getting the word out about their research output, enhancing their reputation, and gaining more citations. 

I'd be keen to do a proper study of what's going on at my University in this regard. One of the researchers I interviewed believes that the potential for the use of social media tools in research is enormous and that it has already changed scholarship.

The other area we investigated was the role librarians can play in supporting the use of social media by researchers. I can think of two main roles: training in and promotion of different tools. Are there any others you can think of?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Are librarians partners in research?

In a post I published in February this year, I asked whether librarians are indeed partners in research. I didn't get any responses, which either means my blog isn't read, or other librarians are also not quite sure where we stand on this topic.

I'm writing an assignment this week on digital scholarship and came across this interesting talk by Martin Weller. 

I found it telling that he refers to librarians and research assistants in the same breath: as "people who do stuff for you". 

So maybe we're not seen as partners in research yet. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Social media: things to ponder

I'm part of a social media working group here at my library. What that means is we manage, monitor and update the various social media accounts for the library. The use of social media in our library started as an experiment. Because of bandwidth issues in South Africa, the use of social media on campus was restricted for many years. At the time we started, we had to create our accounts "under the radar", and advertising the fact that we were on these platforms via our web site was forbidden.

The reason we went the route of social media is because we believed that what we had to say about the library would be better distributed via social media rather than just via our web site. We chose Facebook and Twitter initially and just recently, we've started using YouTube as well for distribution of training and promotional videos.

Here's what I've learned so far and issues I'm still grappling with:

- The management of social media for an organisation can't be an ad hoc thing. We've become more coordinated in our efforts to push information out to our students and it seems to be working.

- Success on social media means different things to different people. Do we want tons of followers? Do we measure success by the amount of interaction we get from our readers? I think success should be measured by the amount of interaction with and relevant messages we create for our followers. Are we speaking to their needs? Are they following us because they get what they want via these media?

- Librarians tend to be tentative about having a voice. This has been a bug-bear of mine for a while. South African library bloggers, for example, tend to curate information and quote sources, rather than comment on issues. I believe social media lends itself to and demands personalisation. Followers aren't interested in "party line", generic messages. They want to know who we are, to feel that they are interacting with human beings and to have some fun in the process. Our accounts have slowly evolved from impersonal message-driven platforms to conversational yet informative sources, but we still have a long way to go.

- Twitter seems to be more popular amongst our population than Facebook. I'm not sure whether that is because of the different ways we use the two accounts, but it's worth studying. This week, we invited social media guru, Dave Duarte, to speak to us about the management of our accounts, and one of the things he mentioned was that, for example, nostalgia works very well on Facebook, while current, fresh information is key on Twitter.

- Social media demands 24/7 management. What does this mean for librarians, who don't work 24/7? What if someone contacts us at midnight for help with their assignment? Making it policy that we interact with someone at this time is risky and not everyone will be on board, for obvious reasons.