Made it to my century

Earlier this week marked 100 days since I started in my new job, which is my first experience of being a library manager. Taking a leaf out of Sally’s (The Library Boss) book I thought I’d take the opportunity to celebrate and reflect on what I’ve achieved in that time:

  • I’ve updated the library’s Collection Development Policy to make it more readable and sound less “official”.
  • I ran a survey of staff from across the organisation to get their thoughts and suggestions on the library (they like us!)
  • As part of trying to re-engage with staff I’ve met with all the Regional Managers (sometimes as part of a team meeting) to let them know what the library can do for them, and to get their suggestions on what we can do to help them.
  • To make sure that students have access to information about library services I ensured that the library content in the learning management system is consistent for all units.
  • I’ve also set the deadline for migrating our catalogue records from one university library management system to another, and am collaborating with the staff at both universities to ensure it’s a smooth process.

I feel very, very lucky to have supportive colleagues within the organisation, both within the library and at a more senior level. I can see that the organisation recognises the value of the library, and I am grateful for that. This isn’t always the case in special libraries.

My next 100 days ends in February. I wonder what they’ll bring?

Collecting, but not for a collection

It’s been just over a month since I started my new job and became a first-time library manager. It’s gone very well, and I think I made the right decision to take this opportunity. In my first few weeks on the job I’ve done some collecting, which fits nicely with the August GLAM Blog Club topic of “collect”. Yes, I have ordered some books for the library’s collection, but the collecting I want to talk about in this post is less visible and not as material as that.

I’ve spent some time collecting my thoughts about my new role. This started not long after I accepted the offer to take up the job, as there was a gap of several weeks between leaving my previous job and starting the new one. It certainly increased in pace after I walked through the door on my first day. My new notebook (which I’d received as a farewell gift from my previous colleagues) quickly filled up with my questions, thoughts, and things to do. As time has moved on I’ve been adding to the notebook less frequently. The content has changed, too; there are fewer questions for other people, and more notes and questions for myself.

I’m trying to collect all my thoughts about the library’s services and resources so that I can try and get a feel for what the library does which works and what doesn’t. I prefer to have a plan and think things through before launching something new or making a big decision (I guess it’s the T (for Thinking) in my Myers-Briggs ISTJ personality type coming out). I don’t want to fall into either of the traps identified by Steven Bell in his Library Journal piece last year of over-promising and under-delivering, or trying to make my mark by launching something new and shiny too soon. I’ve got some ideas for potential new services that the library could offer, as well as some things that perhaps we could stop doing or change the way we do them. I get the feeling that others within the organisation would be happy to see some new ideas coming out of the library, so I don’t want to let them (or the library) down by not having thought things through.

Part of the process of evaluating what the library currently offers involves collecting evidence. I have always had an interest in evidence-based library and information practice (EBLIP), and I’m looking forward to putting it to good use. EBLIP arose out of the evidence-based medicine movement of the late 1990’s, and was initially embraced by medical librarians. It has since become more widespread within the LIS profession, however, and has been formally defined for about 15 years. An early definition was proposed by Andrew Booth in 2002:

Evidence based librarianship (EBL) is an approach to information science that promotes the collection, interpretation, and integration of valid, important and applicable user reported, librarian observed, and research derived evidence. The best available evidence moderated by user needs and preferences is applied to improve the quality of professional judgments.

Further refinement of the definition by Jonathan Eldredge recognised that the evidence could be either qualitative or quantitative, but should be always be as rigorous as possible. A third definition from Ellen Crumley and Denise Koufogiannakis includes the importance of librarians carrying out high quality research in order to add to the evidence base.

So what sort of evidence have I been collecting, and what do I plan to collect? I’m currently drafting a survey which will be sent out to all staff in the organisation and will focus on these three things:

  • Whether staff are aware that the library is available to them
  • Which library services and resources are important to the staff
  • How satisfied the staff are with the library’s services and resources

From the results of the survey I should get a good idea of where the library needs to focus its efforts in order to deliver a useful service to its patrons. To get some more personal responses I will be meeting with managers across the organisation to get their views on how the library can best support their staff (a variation on the Management By Walking Around technique). I’ll also be asking the other librarian (who has worked here for many years) what their thoughts are on how well the library is meeting our patrons needs and if there are any new services we could introduce.

Although the main focus of libraries is usually on collecting items for their collection, I think that it’s important that the collection of evidence is also a part of their practice. It can provide a way for the library to ensure that it is relevant to its users, and may even help to provide justification for the existence of the library. I’d encourage you to have a look at the EBLIP journal, which has been around for over ten years, to see some examples of how EBLIP has been used to evaluate and improve library services in a range of settings.

 

Holidays, milestones, turtles, oh my!

A few weeks ago I posted about how busy this year has been for us in terms of geocaching. Well, it hasn’t gotten any slower!

Earlier in July we spent a week on holidays in Cairns. We had a good time enjoying the warmer weather, and doing some day trips to Green Island, the Daintree, and Kuranda. While we were there we found our first ever Chirp cache, which was pretty cool. Now that we know the Chirp app works on our phones we’ll see if we can track a few more of these down.

Once we got home from Cairns we continued on our Hidden Creatures quest. Along the way, each of the Shoes family reached a milestone. Sensible Shoes reached 800 finds, Shoes Junior made it to 450 finds, and Little Shoes logged his 350th find. It only took us 24 days to go from 700 to 800 finds – our fastest ever 100 finds.

Finally, we ended up discovering the World Turtle in the Hidden Creatures promotion. When we first started on the quest, we would have been happy with getting the Yeti. However, it got to the stage where we were 17 finds away from reaching World Turtle, so we decided to put in one more day of caching to get there. Along the way we got to our 800 milestone, and Shoes Junior and Little Shoes had their best day of caching with 20 finds each.

We’ll probably take it a bit slower now. We’ve filled in July on our calendar, but we’ve got quite a few gaps in August. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to fill it this year, we might need to wait until next year to do that. Our goal (which might be a bit of a stretch) is to see if we can get to 1,000 finds by the end of the year. We’ve got a couple of tools on order which should help us get around a bit faster and find more caches. I’ll talk about them in my next post.

Gimme some lovin’

As well as working on a couple of other challenges, we’ve recently starting focussing on trying to find “unloved” geocaches i.e. ones which haven’t been found for six months or more. Our motivation for doing this is to rescue the caches to keep them active, and in some cases to confirm that the cache is still there. It gives us a warm and fuzzy feeling when we can let a cache owner know that their cache hasn’t gone missing. There’s also the thrill of the hunt, and knowing that we can accrue some more months if we can find the cache.

There are several challenge caches which you can qualify for by finding a certain number of years worth of unloved caches. A few days ago we qualified for a “Five Forgotten Years” challenge cache, and we’re about halfway to the next qualifying level of 15 years. After that, we need to find 50 years worth of unloved caches in order to qualify for the next challenge cache.

Our unloved cache finds

We’re using a couple of well-known online geocaching tools to help track our progress – GSAK and Project GC. GSAK (or Geocaching Swiss Army Knife) is a software program for Windows which lets you create databases of geocaches, such as all your finds or puzzles that you’ve solved. You can then run macros on these databases to calculate all sorts of statistics about your finds. We use the PreviousFind macro to calculate the number of days that our unloved caches have been unfound. GSAK is free to download, but a nag screen appears after 21 days which you can pay to remove if you want to.

Project GC is a website that can produce all sorts of statistics about geocaches. Lots of geocachers use it to produce statistics for their profile, but there are a range of other tools available, such as Days since last found. This feature has been very useful for us to plan which caches to find in order to earn some more unloved months. The basic tools on Project GC are free to use, but if you pay to become a member you have access to a lot more features. If you want to find out more about this great geocaching resource, have a listen to this episode of the Podcacher podcast, which features an interview with Magnus, the developer of Project GC.

Fill ‘er up!

As mentioned in a previous post, this has been a very busy geocaching year for us. We’re working on three challenges that have helped with this.

The first of these started in April, when we began to work on filling our calendar. In order to do this, we need to find a geocache on every day of the year. It doesn’t mean we need to go on a streak and find a cache every day in a row, but checking our finds grid to see the empty days and try and find a cache on those. So far we’re up to 209 days out of 366, and should be able to keep it up for a couple more months.

Our “Finds by found date” calendar

I think we’ll find it more challenging towards the end of the year when the weather starts to warm up – it makes it more uncomfortable for us and also more comfortable for the snakes.

The second challenge we’ve set ourselves is to try and fill in our “Finds by hidden month” chart. This is also known as the Jasmer challenge, and to complete it you need to find a cache that was hidden in every month since geocaching began in May 2000. For some of the older months, there aren’t any caches in Australia that were placed during those months, so the alternative Ausmer challenge has been developed instead. Even though there are fewer months in this version (it’s only from January 2001 onwards), we still probably won’t be completing this challenge. We’ll do our best to fill in as many of the months as we can, though.

Our current Jasmer grid

The third challenge involves finding a special type of geocache. Find out more in an upcoming post.

Wow, it’s been a busy year!

2018 is shaping up to be the biggest geocaching year yet for Sensible Shoes. We started the year on 524 finds, and currently we’re on 762 finds. That’s 238 finds this year alone – over half of all the finds from our previous 10 years! If we keep this up we’ll be at 1,000 finds before we know it (actually, in another 238 finds).

We’ve taken part in the recent promotions that Geocaching HQ have run, which has helped to build our find count. The first was the Planetary Pursuit, which we didn’t complete, but we did get as far as Uranus. We’ve also gotten into the current Hidden Creatures promotion. We recently unlocked the Dragon (which is available after 50 finds), but we’re not sure if we’ll make it all the way to World Turtle (for which you need 100 finds). At the start of the promotion we decided that we’d be happy if we made it to Yeti (35 finds), so we’ve done better than we thought. Maybe the World Turtle isn’t out of the question!

The hidden creatures that we’ve found

As well as a record year for finds, we’ve also set a new record for hiding caches. We’ve put out four new caches, and so far they’ve all been found fairly regularly. Although they’re not a formal series, there is a bit of theme to their names (which also reflects the type of hide or the location) – Hedwig, Umbridge, Aragog, and The Hogwarts Letter.

If you want to keep up with what we’re doing, we’ve got a new Instagram account where we’ll be posting pictures and videos of our caching adventures. Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog post about the various date-based geocaching challenges that we’re working on at the moment, and another post about our search for a special type of geocache.

Creating my future (and a library)

I’m not really the artistically creative type, so for this month’s GLAM Blog Club I’ll be talking about creating the next stage of my career. Next month I’ll be starting a new job as the manager of a small special library. This role is my first ever management position, and I’m really looking forward to the challenge. It’s only a small library, but I think it’s a good fit for me in terms of moving ahead in my career.

The positions that I’ve held up until now have created this opportunity for me. I’ll be able to draw upon my academic library experience (working with university staff and postgraduate students) and my special library experience (working in a small team, doing a bit of everything, being innovative and creative). I think I’ll be able to put them all to good use to maintain and create a fantastic library service.

The episode of the Turbitt & Duck podcast which featured Justin Hoenke resonated with me in a couple of ways. Firstly, I think I’ll be able to relate to the “Wow, I’m the manager … what do I do?” scenario, as I’m pretty sure that will be me for the first few months of the job. Another thing I need to be aware of is to not get my new staff offside by introducing too many creative or innovative ideas straight away. I’ll also keep Justin’s advice about looking for the creative opportunities in mundane activities in mind.

As well as creating a new stage in my career, I’m also really excited to have the opportunity to help create a new library space. The library will be moving to the campus of its partner university (hopefully within 18 months – two years). This will provide me and my team with ample opportunity to think about creative ways to use the new space, and to make sure that we’re providing the best possible library service.

I’m looking forward to this next chapter of my career. It might even give me the creative spark I need to try and write more often!

If you’re happy and you know it …

The theme for this month’s newCardigan GLAM Blog Club is “Happiness”, so here, in no particular order, are some of the things that make me happy.

I guess the most important thing I’m happy about is making the career switch into librarianship. As I’ve discussed previously, I started my working life in an environmental laboratory before moving into libraries. As far as career progression is concerned, I’m definitely happy with the change – I’ve been able to take advantage of more opportunities than I would have been able to if I’d stayed in the lab. I could happily spend the rest of my working life in libraries.

In my role as a librarian, I find happiness in other people’s happiness. In my previous role as an academic librarian as well as my current role as a hospital librarian, it’s the happiness shown by the people that I’ve helped which gives me satisfaction. This could be their thanks for helping them troubleshoot a problem they’ve been having with EndNote or for showing them how to search the databases effectively, or their appreciation for the literature search that I’ve completed for them. It’s this feeling that I’ve really been able to help someone which keeps me coming back to work each day.

Over the last few years I’ve done some casual tutoring in an information retrieval unit in a Masters-level information studies course. This experience of teaching future information professionals also makes me happy. It makes me feel good when I’m able to provide some real world examples and experience to help them see how the theory that they’re learning about can be applied.

I also find happiness in being busy. I currently have several projects and ideas that I’m working on outside of my job at the moment, and I do tend to start tinkering with something without waiting until I’ve completed one of the things I’m already working on. This means I end up with a few half-finished tasks that take longer to complete than they probably should. I’m making an effort this year to try and finish off (or stop working on) some of these things so that I can share the results. Even though I like to be busy, I’m also happy to switch off when required.

So, that’s what keeps me happy in my job. I’ll be interested to read what other people have to say about happiness.

Long live Boolean!

My former colleague Fiona has started a monthly journal club on her blog, and this month’s article about Boolean searching piqued my interest. Fiona posted a couple of questions to get the discussion going, and I thought I’d contribute my opinions to the discussion. In case you haven’t guessed from the title of the post, I’m a fan of Boolean searching. I’ll be wearing and swapping between two hats in these answers – my hospital librarian hat, and my tutor-in-a-unit-within-a-Masters-level-library-and-information-studies-course hat. Please note that these are my thoughts on the topic, and do not represent the views of my day-to-day employer or the university which employed me. Now, onto my answers.

Do you teach Boolean searching? Why/why not?

Firstly I should note that as a hospital librarian I don’t do any teaching of undergraduate students (the group who were the subject of the article). However, I do provide search training to hospital staff (usually in a one-on-one setting). In these sessions I do teach Boolean searching in a sense, but I usually don’t refer to it as “Boolean” and I don’t go into any great detail (and I don’t use any Venn diagrams). This is because we don’t have access to a discovery tool, so all our searching is done in medical databases (usually MEDLINE and EMBASE on the Ovid platform). These work best with structured searches.

The situation is different when I’m teaching in the Masters-level information retrieval unit. Boolean operators are covered in lectures and tutorials, and students are assessed on their use of Boolean in a couple of their assignments. I think it makes sense to teach future information professionals how to effectively use Boolean operators, because there are still situations (such as using subject-specific databases) where Boolean is the most effective way to construct a search.

If you teach Boolean only to some students, or in some circumstances, what is behind the decision to teach or not to teach?

As I mentioned above, the databases that I’m showing hospital staff how to use work best with Boolean searches, so that’s why I show them how to use the Boolean operators in their search. However I rarely use the term “Boolean” when I’m describing how to build a search; I’ll talk about combining the search terms using AND or OR. The database platform that I demonstrate (Ovid) has handy AND and OR buttons located on the search page, so it’s easy to say “now you can combine these terms using AND to retrieve the documents that contain all of these terms”. Some of the staff might say something like “Oh, you mean a Boolean search?”, but I don’t mention the B-word.

Do you think that there are any information retrieval advantages to using Boolean search strategies over natural language? When?

I believe that Boolean search strategies have the advantage of being able to construct a highly-targeted and specific search, especially when using subject headings. They also make it easy to combine the search terms in different ways or add in different terms if you need to tweak your search without having to type out a new search strategy each time.

Do you think that there are any pedagogical advantages to teaching Boolean search strategies as opposed to natural language? Why/why not?

One advantage that I see in using Boolean search strategies is that they encourage the searcher to think about their topic in more depth, rather than just typing a phrase into a search engine or database and hoping for the best. The search works better once the key concepts have been identified, along with any synonyms that can be included alternative search terms. This is the approach that I use as a tutor, and I think it’s effective in helping the students build an effective search strategy.

There’s an additional advantage that I think comes with using subject headings with Boolean operators. Although subject headings and the way that they’re structured can be daunting for someone not familiar with a subject, they can help them get a better understanding of the vocabulary of the subject.

What other search strategies do you teach either alongside or instead or Boolean? Why those?

It’s not a search technique per se, but the PICO framework is another tool that I show hospital staff. PICO is commonly used in the health sector, especially in evidence-based medicine, to help clinicians and researchers come up with a focussed clinical question. Because it consists of distinct components, it lends itself nicely to a structured search using Boolean operators i.e. P AND I AND C AND O.

Although some of the points that I’ve made aren’t directly relevant to the article, I hope this post has given you a bit of an insight into why I think Boolean searching is still worth using. Long live Boolean!

Learning goals for 2018

There are a few things on my “to-learn” list for 2018. I started working with most of them last year, and I want to learn more about them this year.

  • Wikidata and WikiCite

Up until now, the Wikimedia Foundation project that I’ve worked on the most has been Wikipedia. I’ve taken part in a couple of #1lib1ref campaigns, and looked at how Wikipedia can be used as an entry point to library collections (which I co-presented at the 2014 ALIA National Conference). My total number of edits on Wikipedia is close to 3,000; most of them are corrections to the formatting of references, so I’m very much a WikiGnome. I’ve recently become interested in Wikidata, and the semi-related project WikiCite. I’ve played around with adding items to Wikidata by exporting from Zotero (there’ll probably be an upcoming post about this), and I’ll be doing some more of this in the future. My main focus is on bibliographic data within Wikidata, so that’s why I’m interested in WikiCite. I would love to be able to apply the “create once, re-use often” principle to adding references to Wikipedia, as I sometimes find myself editing the same reference in multiple Wikipedia articles. WikiCite could be a way of reducing this sort of duplication of effort. I’m definitely not a developer on WikiCite, just an interested user.

  • R and Shiny

I started dabbling with the R programming language last year, and it’s something that I would like to try and learn more about. I’d like to investigate using Shiny to create a dashboard based on a script written with R. I’m thinking that it will involve altmetrics (maybe using the new Dimensions research information system), but I’ll have to see if my limited coding abilities will be enough for that.

  • A MOOC or two

I completed a couple of MOOCs last year (mostly on statistics and research data management), and I want to try and enrol in at least one this year. I started one on R a little while ago, so I might try and finish that one off. I’m sure I can find something out there that interests me.

I’ll keep you updated throughout the year as I (hopefully) cross these items off the list.