New Year Celebrations in London

New Year Celebrations in London (from i is Ashby on Flickr)

Firstly, I hope any readers who celebrate have had a wonderful Christmas season and enjoyed the break – I certainly have. It’s given me chance to see family, spend time at home relaxing with my boyfriend and our kittens, catch up on sleep, do some cross-stitching (for next year’s Christmas cards!) and learn a bit of Photoshop.

As it’s the last day of the year I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect back on the year and look forward to 2009.

2008 has been quite a big year for me professionally; I’ve worked on my qualification and completed my Diploma in October, and started my first professional post as a Resources Librarian in November.

I’ve also been to a number of events and met a lot of great people in the profession. Particular highlights include a COfHE event The Terrible 2.0s? Web 2.0 without tears, Internet Librarian International 2008, and the recent Mashed Library Unconference.

One of my main projects this year has been the Facebook Page for our Learning Centres. Although it has so far only been a fairly small-scale pilot project, we have almost 250 fans and it has been a very interesting experience. I’ve been able to help others with their Facebook Pages too which has been very rewarding. The Facebook Page was featured as a case study in a recent presentation about Librarians, Libraries and Facebook, and I’ve recently submitted a paper to ALISS Quarterly about our experiences (more on that in the New Year hopefully).

I was also invited to co-author a conference paper for the Bridging Worlds 2008 conference in Singapore, and wrote about the Library 2.0 initiatives and barriers at University of Wolverhampton as a guest blog post for the UK Web Focus blog.

I have particularly enjoyed blogging this year, I often find myself thinking about possible blog posts in my spare time. I enjoy sharing ideas via the blog and hearing about other experiences/points of view through the comments. Blogging also seems to have become more popular in academic libraries this year, and I hope to help develop that further this coming year.

All in all, it’s been a very exciting year and I hope to continue developing projects at work, and share our experiences through conferences, papers and blogging. I’ve enjoyed spreading the word about new technologies and ideas for developing services both in my department and externally and I hope to continue doing so next year.

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year and a happy and healthy 2009. 🙂

I forgot to mention this on the blog – I received my results for my final assignment a few weeks ago and I’ve had them confirmed so I have now successfully completed my Diploma! 🙂

I’m still keen to continue to Masters level and my plan is to concentrate on my dissertation next year. I’m still not 100% sure what the dissertation will be based on but I’d definitely like to do something with new technologies.

I’ve recently put in a project proposal for running a Learning 2.0/23 Things programme at work which I’ve been wanting to do for ages. I feel there are many people who would benefit from the programme (from speaking to people many seem interested in new tools and technologies but just don’t know where to start with them), as well as raising the level of skill across the department. University of Huddersfield are currently running the programme, and many other academic and public libraries in the UK have either already completed it or are thinking of planning one.

If the proposal is approved I’d love to base my dissertation on our experiences with the programme. I’m passionate about teaching and learning as well as new technologies and this combines the two so fingers crossed I can go ahead with it.

I’ve recently come to realise just how important aesthetics and usability are in all websites, including electronic databases. Having a web designer boyfriend means I recognise the importance of design and usability in the corporate world, but it’s become apparent that it’s also important in the academic world.

I’m interested in web design and particularly usability of web interfaces and had been reading a Visual Design for the Modern Web (well recommended for those interested in the basic principles of designing an effective website). The book has some particularly interesting sections on user interfaces and navigation. Not long after reading the book, I had an interesting enquiry which really made it apparent just how important it is to make sure a database is easy to use.

The student was looking for images of a sculptor’s work for her latest assignment. I knew we’d recently bought some image databases for the School of Art and Design so thought we’d try those. Having not used them before, it was a good test for usability. The first one I went to was fairly straight forward to use; the search area was obvious but we only found a few images and none that were quite right. The second one we tried was one I’d heard of before and I knew was highly recommended so I expected it would have plenty of images. It did, but after taking us a few minutes to find out how to actually get to the search screen and then realising there was no easy way (well, not that we could find anyway) of using the images, we gave up and tried a third database. The third had more results than the first, and although it wasn’t as extensive as the second, it was a lot easier to use both in terms of searching and also working out how to download/save the images for re-use. Unsurprisingly, the student went away and decided to use the third database to get her images.

It just shows that even with academic material, content isn’t everything and if your website/database isn’t easy to use people (including myself!) will try to get similar material from elsewhere. EBSCOs recently re-designed interface EBSCO 2.0 is a good example of a usable database, it’s not perfect but it’s a lot better than many other databases, particularly for those new to using electronic databases. We have recently moved from Dialog to EBSCO for the majority of our health databases and feedback from students has so far been very good – even though the databases are essentially the same in terms of content, they are finding it a lot easier to use on EBSCOs new interface.

Particularly as we move to more and more students studying from home, it is important to ensure that our electronic databases are easy to use. Does anyone else know of any other examples of good user interfaces to academic databases?