Yesterday I attended the Mashed Libraries Unconference held in London.

There were around 25 participants in the event – mainly from the UK, although one had even come all the way from Germany (an ExLibris representative). Most people were library techy people, many from systems departments in academic libraries. There were also quite a few not so techy people like myself there though, and although some of the programming went way over my head, there was a lot to be learned and some interesting things that were not so difficult to achieve.

We started the day with some short presentations about mashups and APIs and what can be achieved.  We heard about Talis’s new APIs and the basic structure of how their systems work. Although I didn’t know all the coding, it was very interesting and certainly made me think about how data can be utilised by these systems to get interesting outputs such as holding information or book jackets.

The next talk was by Tony Hirst from Open University. Tony demonstrated Amazon Web Services which is an easy to use front end to play around with Amazon’s APIs. He then showed us Google Spreadsheets which can be used to import data such as a table on a HTML page, RSS or XML (I had no idea it had the ability to do this!). Combined with Amazon Web Services you can get some great data! He also demonstrated Yahoo Pipes which I have used before but only to combine multiple RSS feeds into one feed. He demonstrated using it to bring in delicious feeds and set conditions on what to include/exclude, as well as using LibraryThing’s ThingISBN and Amazon Web Services to bring in data about all versions of a book and display reviews from Amazon all from an ISBN. I haven’t used Yahoo Pipes for a while and there seems to be more options of how you can export data now, you can even use it to create iGoogle gadgets.

We also had talks from Ex Libris, OCLC and COPAC and it was interesting to hear the things they are up to at the moment. It seems many products are moving towards opening the use of APIs and promoting sharing of developments within the community.

We then had a break for an early lunch (we had fantastic catering throughout the day) and got to work on whatever inspired us. Many people decided to play around with Yahoo Pipes, but there were others who played around with APIs that had been made available to use on the day.

In the afternoon we had a presentation from Paul Bevan from the National Library of Wales (who co-authored the Library 2.0 conference paper I wrote). It was great to meet Paul and hear about experiences from a different type of library. Amazingly, 82% of the National Library of Wales’ visitors are online visitors so they recognised the need to develop the web side of things. A Web 2.0 Taskforce was established a few months ago with a remit to investigate Web 2.0 and inform the strategic review. Web 2.0 is now incorporated into their strategy and a number of developments are included to be investigated further. Their three main aims for the future are to share (relaxing rights where possible and providing support for reuse), collaborate (form partnerships, identify best practice and hold events), and innovate (take steps to an open infrastructure and improve engagement within Wales).

It was great to put more faces to names and share experiences, both techy and not so techy. I even got chatting to Dave Pattern about their 25 Things project (which I didn’t know was happening!), and he was kind enough to share some of their experiences with that.

A huge thanks to Owen Stephens for organising such a great event, I certainly hope there will be similar events in the future. 🙂

Apologies for the lateness of this post, ILI08 was now over a month ago but since then finishing my Diploma, going to the States, and starting my new job have taken priority. Now things have calmed down a little, I’ve got chance to write the post I promised.

The day itself, the journey, the venue

After leaving home at an unearthly hour and being ill on the train down to London (maybe marshmallow flavoured Rice Crispies Squares aren’t such a good idea at 4am!), I got to the Novotel just before 8am. As it was the final day of the conference, I think most people were having a lie in; I was the only one taking advantage of the orange juice for most of the hour before the day started.

After listening to almost 40mins about streaming video froma very interesting guy from MTV Europe, I realised I was in the wrong conference room and promptly exited during the Q&A to get to the right one. Not a great start! I therefore missed most of the keynote by the Shanachies which I’d been looking for to. The bit I did see was interesting, the Shanachies seem to be travelling all over the world seeing some amazing places and meeting some great people from around the world.

We then had a break where I did a bit of mingling and had a look at the stalls. It was nice to see a good variety of stalls there; database providers, book publishers, and special interest groups. I had a good chat with Karen Blakeman at the UKeIG stand; I’m hoping to change my membership with my CILIP membership next year and will be joining UKeIG.

I took my Acer Aspire One with me and managed to get onto the wireless network which was incredibly useful. I made notes during the sessions and could also check out websites that were mentioned throughout the day.

I attended the sessions in the Information Literacy strand, including sessions on using YouTube to support teaching, online information literacy tutorials, and the 23 Things programme (which I am particularly interested in). I’ll give a brief summary of each and share any useful links.

The sessions

Using YouTube to promote library services: the experiences of Lingnan University Library

Tommy Yeung from Lingnan University Library talked about how they had been using YouTube to promote their services. They realised that display, posters, leaflets, bulletin boards etc. were not doing enough to promote their services and so decided to try using videos. Initially, they produced an orientation video for new students and staff. They also had copies of this for circulation for those who missed the session. In addition to this, they produced a video about the Lingnan Digital Library and linked to it on their web pages. After 2 weeks, they had only had 52 viewings of the video and wondered if it was enough to simply host a video and link to it from their website. During this time, research papers about the use of YouTube in libraries started to attract attention, and so Lingnan University decided to try hosting their videos on YouTube. In the first week alone, they had over 100 viewings of the video. They also received ratings and feedback on YouTube which is very useful for future development.

One of the unique collections of Lingnan University Library are their media collections of guest lectures hosted at the library. They decided to produce 3 minute promotional cuts of 19 of these videos and included a link to the full video on their Digital Library to encourage people to view them. Some of these guest lectures have attracted over 2000 views, many of whom have gone on to view the whole lecture in the Digital Library. In total, 42000 new views have been generated on the Digital Library (I’m not sure if these were all generated from the YouTube videos but I think a large proportion are due to the videos).

The success of the videos had led them to think about ways to further utilise YouTube. In the future they hope to include general information videos about the library, as well as further videos to promote special collections. They are currently in the process of producing a strategy and policy regarding the use of YouTube in the library marketing plan.

Induction video on YouTube

Lingnan University Digital Library website

Marketing Research in Internet Resources: User Needs Analysis

Angela Repanovici from Romania and Ane Landoy from Norway spoke about their quantitative and qualitative research into opinions, attitudes and difficulties of students accessing electronic resources. They developed questionnaires and administered interviews to help them discover student opinions. The results showed that more than 40% found the internet indispensable for their research, and 30% consider the library as their main source of information.The main reason for use of the internet (unsurprisingly) is the speed of access.

In response to their research, Angela and Ane developed an information literacy online tutorial to help support students in their online research. This takes students through the process of writing an essay, and also includes information about referencing and EndNote. Part of the tutorial is written as a student diary which Angela and Ane have found students particularly like.

English version of the tutorial

Student diary

Experiences of 23 Things

This session was split into three speakers who each talked about their experiences of the 23 Things programme. It was great to hear about it from different points of view.


Julio Anjos from Portugal used the 23 things project as part of his distance learning programme, using his classmates as the participants. Of the 20 participants, only 3 had a blog before the programme. He used Moodle to communicate to the participants and due to timescale restrictions allocated 8 weeks for the main project. Only 6 managed to complete in 8 weeks, but by 12 weeks 16 had completed the programme.

Following the programme, Julio collated feedback. 18 of the participants said they could remember all the tools and 15 said they know use them on a daily basis. They felt that it was too little, too late and would have preferred this earlier in their course; they have all added it to their CVs and feel that it will help them in their jobs (and also help them finding a job). A month later however, 12 still did not have a job (although personally I feel this is probably more to do with the current economic climate) and 3 that did did not use the tools in their jobs. All said that people reading their CVs had been interested in the 23 Things project though.

Julio has been asked to repeat the course but at an earlier stage and 12 weeks this time, and has also been running similar programmes at his workplace and elsewhere.

Julio’s website (written in Portuguese)


Harriet Aagaard from Sweden spoke about the 23 Things project she used for Stockholm public library staff. The library was utilising a number of Web 2.0 technologies in their new website and it was felt that it was important that all library staff to understand these technologies and why they are used. They used Ning for their project because it was easy to set up, has the ability to write blogs, upload photos and also has discussion forums.

Their initial plan was for all front line staff to do the course (1hr allocated per week) and their target was for 70% of participants to complete. To promote the project they used e-mails, their intranet, staff meeting, welcome packs, and held a launch party. They also had rewards to encourage participation. Unfortunately, their target was not reached due to a loss of employees leading to extra pressure on those still there. They also felt that a larger project group was necessary to offer support to participants. A colleague on each site is needed for encouragement, support, and to help people keep on track. To compensate for the lack of time, weekly workshops were held for participants to drop into if they needed support or just time to complete the course.

In order to gain feedback on the programme they set up an online questionnaire; 164 of the 350 participants answered the survey. Only 16% of these managed to complete all 23 Things but 77% said they liked the 23 Things way of learning. In general, people like the Ning platform and enjoyed uploading photos and liked the social aspect of the website.

In future they are hoping to give more time for participants who haven’t yet finished to complete, and possibly develop a more advanced programme to continue the initial one. They are also considering a similar programme for members of the public in their community.

Stockholm public library website

23 Things programme on Ning


Mariann Løkse and Jannicke Røgler spoke about the aftermath of 23 Things; they wanted to discover what difference it had made to participants in Norway.

Their web survey had 114 participants. Findings showed that the most popular tools from the 23 Things programme were blogging, RSS, Flickr, LibraryThing, and wikis. The least useful thing for them was Second Life, and also Origo which is like Myspace. Opinions on Facebook were split it was almost in the top 5 as well as almost in the bottom 5; it seems some love it and others hate it! Over 20% have not yet implemented anything from the 23 Things programme, of those that have blogging is the most popular.

Motivating factors of the programme included comments that it was stimulating and fun, it gave ideas of marketing the service using Web 2.0 tools, and it makes the library more accessible for users (being where the users already are). Demotivating factors included comments that some tools lack relevance for the library, there was a lack of support from management, a lack of time, and the view that this is just playing and they couldn’t see the real value.

Overview of event

Despite the terrible journey and missing most of the keynote, I really enjoyed the conference and only wish I’d been there for more of it. The sessions were very interesting, it’s always good to hear from others in similar institutions and situations to yourselves and the innovative things they have been doing. It was also great to meet a wide mix of people from across Europe as well as from other areas in the UK, I had a fascinating conversation with a couple of librarians from Hungary over lunch. I’d certainly like to attend the conference again and really like the whole sharing information mentality that the conference has, both in the sessions and in the breaks. I’d love to one day bring back something innovative that my institution has done and share it with others from the community at ILI.

This post follows on from an earlier post about the use of Facebook Pages for Libraries. There have been a number of further developments since then both internally and externally.

Internally, our Facebook page has gradually increased interest in terms of the number of fans it has. We currently have over 200 fans – not a massive amount but not bad without any formal marketing yet. I’ve had verbal feedback from some students who feel it is a good way to be kept up-to-date with Learning Centre services and resources as they use Facebook regularly. I’ll be writing a progress report shortly to take to a review meeting in January. The page hasn’t changed much since I first set it up, but there are many developments which we could possibly include in the future (e.g. Using proxy server for database search applications, a catalogue search, use of Talis applications which are currently being developed). I now have a small marketing budget too so I need to think about the best way to promote the page.

Externally, there has been a growing interest in the use of Facebook Pages for libraries. Over the past year, I’ve had enquiries from various different external staff (mainly from UK academic libraries) asking for information about our project and help and advice with producing their own page. My advice is always to give it a go if you can, it only takes a minimal amount of time and can be used for promotion or to improve awareness of your services and resources. Common concerns seem to be based on privacy issues and the worry that students will see the library presence as an invasion of their space. From my personal point of view, I don’t see it as an invasion of privacy as students themselves choose to view the page and even if they decide to join as a fan they can still have a private profile. Jane Secker recently presented Whose space is it anyway? at a Facebook conference at Liverpool John Moores University about how libraries are using Facebook, and used our page as one of her case studies. Following on from that, I have been asked to write a paper for ALISS Quarterly on our use of Facebook which I’m currently in the process of writing.

It certainly seems that the use of Facebook in libraries is becoming more mainstream, and I’m glad that I’ve been able to be involved in the early developments.

How about you – is Facebook working for you? Does your library has a Facebook Page or are you maybe thinking of developing one? Do you know of any particularly good applications for libraries to use? Please share in the comments. For those interested in what others are doing with Facebook I recommend reading the comments on David Lee King’s post What can you do with a Facebook page?.

I’ve spent the last two weeks in Orlando, Florida and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have been across to the States before but it was a few years ago now and I visited Washington DC, Boston, and New York City. Visiting Orlando was very different, everywhere was very flat and things were definitely a lot more tourist oriented.

As this was purely a personal holiday, you may think its unlikely that I can relate my experiences at Disney to my work in an academic library. However, something which really stood out to both myself and my partner was the excellent service we received in most places, but particularly in Disney. All staff (or “cast” as they’re referred to at Disney) were attentive and they were all working to the same objective – to ensure everyone enjoys their experience.

We also visited the Kennedy Space Centre. Apparently, if you ask any member of NASA staff there what their job is they will respond with “My job is to put a man on the moon”. I don’t know how true that is but I really like the concept. Whether a member of staff is a director or a cleaner, they ultimately help work towards the same goal and I think that’s great. It’s something which I think we can all learn from – in libraries, our main role is to satisfy our customers and help ensure they receive the information they need to. That’s a shared goal for all staff, wouldn’t it be great if we were all working towards that goal as a big picture rather than focussing on tiny details of our job roles which can sometimes take over our focus?

At Disney it’s all about the customers and I think that’s something that I will take back to work with me, to try to ensure that our users needs are considered and try to make their experience of the library, whether it is physical or virtual, the best it can be.

Something else which I love in America is how staff say “You’re welcome” after you thank them, I’m going to bear that in mind next time a student thanks me for helping them. It’s such a minor thing but as long as it is genuinely meant, it’s a nice thing to hear.

All in all, I was very impressed with America, and I think my partner would emigrate in a second if he could take all our family and friends with us!

If anyone is interested, there are loads of photos of Florida in my Flickr account.