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Library related events, questions and links: My professional life on a page

Tweeting While You Work – SLA Europe event

On 16 March I attended SLA Europe’s seminar ‘Tweeting While You Work.’
Dr Hazel Hall (@hazelh; @LISResearch; @CentSocInfo) of Napier University in Edinburgh, Julie Hall (@juliehall) of Women Unlimited and Julie Lewis (@judithlewis; @MostlyAboutChocolate; @Seshet) of Seshet Consulting gave their perspective on using Twitter at work and as part of our work.

All had multiple Twitter identities for multiple purposes. Hazel Hall also emphasised that her Facebook profile was the place where her non-work social networking took place, thus creating clear boundaries between Twitter as a work tool and as a social tool. To an extent this is what I have done too. My Twitter community for @Batty_Towers is now a mix of PhD-related people and work colleagues. Only some of these are interested in the football score or the trains I have taken, so I need to share carefully when using Tweetdeck: is this for Twitter and Facebook or just one service?

Hazel’s presentations is available here. So far the event’s been covered by VIP, WoodsieGirl and will feature on the SLA Europe blog. Photos are available too though thankfully none of me.

I have chosen to follow people who post work-related information. I use it as a kind of current awareness service – if there’s an interesting new paper or article it will be tweeted about by one if not more of the accounts I follow. This approach was challenged a bit by the Digital Researcher event I attended: this is probably not the way to fully exploit the advantages of social media within the research community. Julie Lewis took us through some of the interfaces for using Twitter. Julie Hall also emphasised the ways that Twitter had improved their business and opened doors to new opportunities. All clearly pointed out that the way to think about Twitter is as a public conversation; not just a mindless broadcast.

Bob De Laney, News & Business Director at Lexis Nexis chaired the event and asked a key question: Would you pay for Twitter access? Participants felt that on the whole, they would not – if Twitter started charging, users would migrate to another service that was free.

We have a library Twitter account; I set it up to track for political parties’ announcements during the party conferences when accessing other broadcast would have been difficult. Another colleague uses it to check conversations around a different topic. And we, excitingly, follow the BBA’s Libor rate. I cannot see us tweeting on behalf of the library just yet, I think that’s a little advanced: how would that fit with the firm’s social media strategy?. And there are plenty of other people tweeting the kind of library current awareness we would have access to. But it’s good to be in a position to contribute where we can, and know that we are not too far behind should opportunities arise to fully Twitter While We Work.

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Filed under: Event report, SLA Europe, , , , ,

Library Day in the Life – Tuesday

This will be a short entry as I only really did three things of note:

1) I prepared the firm’s daily update; to the general agreement of the team and a passing paralegal it’s the dullest update in a long time. I thought Wednesday was the no-news day!

2) I spent the rest of the day mostly doing number crunching on the various stats we have from various database providers. All seem to measure and record slightly different metrics in slightly different ways; it takes some time to pull useful and comparable information from the data we get sent.

3) I went to the SLA Europe Winter Warmer quiz and joined the spectacularly losing team. Reports from TFPL, and SLA Europe have now been published.

Filed under: Uncategorized, ,

Google law, Supreme Court & forthcoming SLA Event

A heads up for some forthcoming posts.

Google have announced that they now have US law available – this is an interesting development for those of us who have regular need for the laws and judgments from the US where the paid services we have access to are relatively expensive. I have not had a proper look; I will give this service an assessment and post an opinion shortly.

This evening (18 November) I will be part of the CLIG team running a visit to the Supreme Court – I’m quite excited about this!

And I am excited and also suitably nervous at the prospect of speaking as part of the panel at the next SLA eventThe Changing Landscape of the Information Profession. Again, more on that later.  

Filed under: Committee, Event report, , ,

SLA Europe – Google-isation of [Re]Search

SLA Europe hosted a fun and thought-provoking seminar on Wednesday 7 October. The speakers were Kathy Jacobs, Library and Information Manager at Pinsent Masons, Professor David Nicholas — Director of the Department of Information Studies at University College London and Professor Roger James, Director of Information Services at University of Westminster.

I found this evening particularly interesting because the talks were relevant to both the worlds I inhabit – that of information professional and that of postgraduate research student. I see very different sorts of research in these two worlds and the application of Google-like search in both. Roger James was a late stand-in, and his willingness to do so very welcome. His late participation is probably why I felt he did not quite understood his audience; some of his questions and underlying assumptions seemed to arise from believing we were all throwing our hands up in horror at the sight of someone using Google, or that we furtively use it ourselves – but only when no-one’s looking, as if it’s a guilty secret.

I was not sure whether comparing the academic environment with the professional library is a useful comparison: particularly when legal information is highly structured. Roger talked about the trade off between content creation: the cheap and easy user-created information; and curating costly content: managing the quality, expensive information. He suggested that part of our jobs as librarians is to ask when we should use the cheap information and why we should curate the expensive stuff.

Roger and David both suggested that we could use our systems more intelligently to find user data, to look at the search logs and see what users were doing in order to decide how best to meet their needs in the future. This gave me some ideas, it is true our last library survey was akin to getting blood from a stone.

Kathy Jacobs described Pinsent Masons’ implementation of a federated search platform from Solcara with a Google-esque interface. This does not require extensive training and is intuitive – but, by Kathy’s own admission, it is good for ‘quick and dirty’ searches only. What if one needs more in-depth research? We are, it seems, happy to accept complicated systems for room booking or cheque requests or time recording that ensure we enter and receive quality information, but as soon as we get near the internet we want it simple? No-one mentioned the words ‘dumbing down’ last night – and I think it is a simplistic explanation in itself – but I suspect there is a possibility that babies are being lobbed out with bathwater along the way. Bloomberg is fiendishly complicated and counter-intuitive (for example, different data sets require different actions to start a search) – but its ‘quirks’ seem to be accepted. Pinsents refused to work with any vendor that wouldn’t allow integration with their federated search system. Pragmatic, definitely, but what about the services they miss out on? Would they have replaced, for example, a hard copy set of law reports that had been binned in favour of online access if that online access was removed? Lots of questions I would like to ask Kathy another time.

One of the points Dave Nicholas made was that users had described academic search databases as empty, unfriendly, because one is not welcomed with the ‘people who read this, also enjoyed this…’ recommendations carried by Amazon and other commercial enterprises. His illustration was that in his early library experience the returned books trolley was rarely full, because the books on it are popular by the virtue of being read. I follow his logic, and I can see instances where trainee lawyers or undergraduates would find that kind of user-determined research trail helpful. However, with my PGR hat on I wonder whether going from recommendation to recommendation would be useful or whether one would ultimately fail to mine the depths of the information within a publication database? If one is undertaking a novel piece of research, would that not suggest that there would by definition not be a valid user-generated path to relevant research publications? We are all aware that although serendipity is our friend, often what is interesting is not be relevant and the further one gets away from one’s initial search intention, the more likely it seems that the interesting overtakes the relevant. I have not read the research in detail as published by David, so I will endeavour to find an answer to this question within it when I have a chance as I do have some of the unit’s work in my PhD library already. But rather than just accepting that libraries ought to follow this model because it works for Google, ought we to seek intelligent alternatives too?

The other question I found myself asking was how different groups of people, with different bodies of knowledge to investigate, may approach searching in different ways – because their ultimate needs are different. Legal information is formal and structured and there are right and wrong answers and there are what Kathy described  as ‘career limiting’ implications for those who do not understand this. What is good enough for an undergraduate is not sufficient for a trainee; nor is it for a PhD-level literature search. For some of these groups a Google search is a starting point not an end. This train of thought does lead to the argument about access points that was recently discussed over at Organising Chaos – if it is a starting point, maybe linking to some of a university’s online collection, what isn’t linked to won’t be found if students bypass the more formal systems. David quoted a figure of a 40% increase in use of physics journals once their content became visible to Google scholar.

Talking through these issues with new and old friends over a glass of wine was a good end to the evening. i suspect this blog entry has asked more questions about the event than described the event itself – check out other blogs: In Through the Outfield & TFPL) if you want to know more. Thank you to the speakers and the SLA events committee for such an enjoyable evening.

Filed under: Event report, , , , ,

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