Can you hear us?

I was interested to read Graeme Oke’s #blogjune post on the #FutureLibrary blog, and the blog post by Lukas Koster which he linked to, regarding communication between academics and the library. It got me thinking about how well my library listens to its academic staff users (and non-users). Sure, we run a regular client survey (as most Australian university libraries do), but we don’t really take the time to sit down and ask the academics what they want from us. I also think that we don’t do a very good job of promoting our services and expertise, to both new and exisiting academic staff.

If we talked and listened to the academics, I think they would have some suggestions for new services that we could offer, and they wouldn’t be in the traditional library space. Like most (all?) Australian universities, Macquarie has increased its emphasis on research over the past few years, and I think we should be looking to expand our services which support researchers. It’s in areas such as altmetrics, research data management, and social media presence where I think we can help. As with our work to support teaching by trying to embed ourselves in online units, we have goals within our Library Services department plan such as “Scope services and products and plan support for researchers”, “Develop  and pilot an online product to support researchers applying for research grants”, and “Develop communication strategy for researchers of each Faculty”. What these services and strategies will actually be, I don’t know, but the fact that their development is part of our plan for the year means that there’s a very good that something will happen. Our recent restructure was carried out in order to allow the Research Librarians to focus on providing support for researchers. The new model provides us with a perfect opportunity to ask our academic staff what they want from us, and to be in a position to listen and respond to what they say.

I think it’s an exciting time to be an academic librarian. The role is changing, and the opportunities are there to be able to create new and innovative services, and to involve ourselves in areas which aren’t part of the traditional library space.

Embedded librarianship – not as painful as it sounds

One of the recently emerging trends in academic librarianship is the embedded librarian. In this role, the librarians is a partner with the teaching staff, and is available throughout the course, rather than offering a single training session or workshop. Increasingly, this means that the library has a presence on the Learning Management System (LMS) e.g. Blackboard, Moodle. By being available in this way, we’re in a space where students regularly spend time and are very likely to find us. This presence also offers the opportunity to provide services at the point of need and in a targeted way. Rather than trying to cram all the information we want to pass on to the students in a one-off face-to-face session, we can gradually roll it out week-by-week in conjunction with the lecture material. By being online, we also ensure that students who are off-campus are receiving the same level of service from us as on-campus students.

There have been several tweets recently regarding various models of embedded librarianship:

At Macquarie, we’re trying to move into embedded librarianship by establishing a presence on Moodle, or iLearn as we call it. One of the items on our Library Services department plan for this year is “plan development of sustainable, client oriented products available via client oriented channels including iLearn.” We’ll probably start off small and pilot the service with a few units, with the aim of expanding to cover more units next year. There’s also the option of adding LibGuides into iLearn too, as detailed in this article.

It’s an exciting opportunity to expand our services, and be in the same space as the students.

Reskilling for Research workshop

Today I participated in a “Reskilling for Research” workshop, facilitated by Jenny Cameron. It aimed to provide librarians with an idea of the sorts of new skills that they need in order to support researchers at their institutions. These skills gaps are outlined in the Research Libraries UK’s Re-skilling for Research report which was released last year. A lot of the themes were similar to the presentations which were given at the Research Support Community Day which I attended in Brisbane earlier this year.

The workshop was broken into six sections:

  • Assessing researchers’ information needs
  • Supporting the publication process
  • Managing stuff
  • Research data management
  • Social media and collaboration tools for researchers
  • Training for researchers

The first part was a discussion around how researchers find information (Jenny quoted a CIBER report from 2008 which found that 30% of them start with Google or Google Scholar). Maybe we need to offer a “tips for using Google/Google Scholar” course. I know some libraries do, but we haven’t. Librarians need to insert themselves into the literature searching process, and show that we can add value by being a partner in this daunting process. There was also discussion around the differing needs of researchers who are at different stages of their careers. New Higher Degree Research (HDR) students are heavily influenced by their supervisor, so if we can work with the supervisors and give them a good grounding in using the library effectively, we may actually be helping their students too.

The next section looked at how librarians can researchers in the publication process. Examples of our involvement could include advice on how to select which journal to publish in, explaining Impact Factors and other bibliometric tools, and what to look out for to avoid publishing with a predatory publisher. We can also provide advice on how to ensure that the work of our researchers is both discoverable, i.e. is indexed by appropriate sources, and accessible, i.e. available via open access or in a journal which is widely subscribed to. Jenny also noted the increasing move away from journal-level metrics towards article-level metrics, including the adoption of altmetrics. I also learnt that it is possible for a country to have an h-index, as SCImago can calculate them. The various models of open access publishing were also discussed.

The third section looked at how “stuff” can be managed in order to improve personal effectiveness. Each of the attendees gave examples of how they try and keep abreast of all the information that we receive via different sources e.g. RSS feeds, bookmarking using Delicious, Twitter. The pros and cons of using the cloud for storing “stuff” were also discussed.

Research data management was the next topic, and this was more of an overview rather than an in-depth examination. There are many different ways that libraries have involved themselves in data management. This is something that we’re starting to get involved in, so it will be interesting to see how it pans out.

Next up was the use of social media and other collaborative tools by researchers. I noticed that there were a couple of tweets from attendees at the Web 3.0 conference which were particularly relevant to this discussion:

This is a fairly new area for many researchers, so it seems like a good time for the library to get involved and provide training in to how use these tools most effectively.

There was also a couple of tweets from the RAILS9 conference which summed up the workshop quite well, I think:


All in all it was a very interesting and informative workshop, and gave us all some ideas on new services and approaches that we can offer our researchers.

Hi ho, hi ho …

Yes, today was my first day at work after two weeks leave. It was hard getting up at 5:50am, after being able to sleep in a little bit while I was on leave. The timing for my bus ride to work was perfect, as I arrived at the bus stop just as the bus was coming down the road. I knew it must be exam time, as most of the passengers were reading lecture notes.

Once I got to work I was greeted by 292 unread emails, which is probably a pretty low number by some of your standards. I managed to get them all deleted, read or flagged for follow-up by the end of the day. I had an hour’s desk shift in the middle of the day to break things up, so it wasn’t a bad day overall.

Tomorrow I’ll be in a training course all day (which will be my topic for tomorrow’s #blogjune) so it’ll be a fairly easy return to work. If my brain’s up for it, I’ll head off to trivia after work.

Day two of our dirty weekend

No, not THAT sort of dirty weekend! It was the second day of our cleaning project around the house. Today our focus was on the outside and underneath of the house. The boys spent the day with Grandma, so that made it easier for us to be able to focus on what we had to do. We managed to clean out the garage, and under the house, and used our new high-pressure cleaner on the path and driveway. Today was my wife’s turn to play with it, and she did a great job.

I go back to work tomorrow, after two weeks on leave. It’s been a productive time at home and we’ve made real progress in getting the place ready to sell. The outside’s looking good, so it’s now a matter of getting the inside in the same shape. Busy times ahead!

Another tool added to my collection

Earlier this week we bought a Karcher high-pressure water cleaner to clean the outdoor areas at our place. Today was the day I got to have a play with it. I’ve never used one before, and it certainly was easy to set up and use. The results were pretty quick and impressive, with the dirt coming off easily. There were three different cleaning attachments, so I tried them all out. The patio cleaner was OK, but the Dirtblaster gave the best results. The fun’s not over yet, as there’s still more paving to clean tomorrow. It does get a bit messy, so if you’re thinking of using one, wear gumboots and waterproof pants or be prepared to get wet.

Where in the world am I?

I thought I’d make today’s post a bit of Friday fun. A couple of weeks ago I heard about a new website called GeoGuessr. GeoGuessr is a game in which you are shown a Google Street View image of somewhere in the world, and you need to guess where in the world the picture is from. It’s a simple concept which is actually quite addictive. I guess it’s little bit like a real-life version of the computer game Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

The concept appealed to me, as I have a bit of an interest in mapping and location-based activities e.g. geocaching. I’m also currently working through the Mapping with Google course, which I’ll report on in a couple of weeks. I’d also like to complete one of the Getting Started With GIS courses for librarians run by LITA – I’ll have to make sure it’s on my development plan for this year.

Some of the locations are easier to guess than others, while others are pretty much impossible. The Street View image is live, so you can move and zoom if you like, but I try to only pan the original view, rather than moving or zooming too much. However when there’s a great big green directional roadsign just up the road, I may have moved closer for a better look. Most of the locations have been in North America and Europe, but there have been some from Africa, Asia and Australia. I’d recommend checking it out if you have an interest in mapping or geography, but be prepared to end up spending more time playing it than you planned.

It’s all about having the right tools

A couple of months ago we bought a balance bike for our youngest son, Blake, off eBay. When we got it home, we realised that the back tyre was flat, so I tried to replace the inner tube. It was easy enough to take the old tube out, but there was no way I could remove the wheel from the bike frame. This meant that I couldn’t fit a new inner tube. From what I could see, it looked like that I needed a special sort of Allen key or similar sort of tool in order to remove the wheel, so the bike remained in the garage as a job on our to-do list. It wasn’t a high priority, as Blake was too short to ride it.

This afternoon Dad was over to help with some more gardening, and he had a look at the bike. We thought that it looked like a normal Allen key would do the job, but none of ours were the right size. Dad went and got his, and found two that were the right size. So now I had a job for tonight.

Once the boys were in bed, I started work. The wheel came off fairly easily, and the new inner tube went in too (much easier than changing a tube on one of the wheels of our pram!) Then it was a simple matter of replacing the wheel and tightening it up. All up it took about 20 minutes to do. It’s amazing how having the right tool can make a job easy.

Wheel successfully removed

Wheel successfully removed


This was the tool I needed

This was the tool I needed


Reassembled bike readyu to ride

Reassembled bike ready to ride


Hopefully we’ll have some time tomorrow to take the boys out for a bike ride so Blake can try out his bike. He’s grown since we bought it, so he should be good to go. Sonny and Sandy of the Podcacher podcast have mentioned how much fun their son Sean has riding his balance bike. I can’t wait to see Blake have a go.

Scattergories Meme

Thanks to @ironshush and Bun-Toting Librarian for this one:

1. What is your name? Andrew
2. A four-letter word: Able
3. A vehicle: Aston Martin (I once went to a fancy-dress party as James Bond)
4. A city: Adelaide (I went there for NLS2 in 2004)
5. A boy’s name (other than your own): Albert (my grandfather’s middle name)
6. A girl’s name: Andrea (feminine version of Andrew)
7. Alcoholic drink: Apple Schnapps (I’ve tried a few flavours of schanpps over the years, and I think apple is one of them)
8. An occupation: Academic Librarian (technically my position is Research Librarian, but it’s in an acadeic institution)
9. Something you wear: Anorak (well, I own a raincoat which I think is close enough)
10. A celebrity: Adam Sandler (I saw him during a movie studio tour in LA)
11. A food: Artichoke
12. Something found in a bathroom: Acne cream (during my teenage years)
13. Reason for being late: Accident
14. Something you shout: Ahhh!
15. An animal: Adelie Penguin (my sons love Happy Feet)
16. A body part: Ankle

I was able to think of answers that related to me for most of them, but some were just too hard.


Me and my MOOCs

As I posted a few months ago, I’d enrolled in an introductory computer science MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) offered by Udacity. I was studying in the self-study mode, so there were no deadlines for submitting assessment tasks. For a couple of weeks I completed some study a couple of nights a week, and finished the first of the seven units in the course.

However, I would now class myself as a drop-out, as I haven’t looked at the course for a couple of months. I’m still enrolled (I think) so it’s there if I get the inclination to return, but I don’t think I will. The course was well-presented, and the content was fine, but I just didn’t get into it. Maybe if I was planning to change careers I would have been more committed, but because I was doing the course more out of personal interest than for professional development I didn’t feel a need to complete it.

I’m certainly not alone in not completing a MOOC. A recent study found that the average completion rate for MOOCs is 7.6%, although the new OUA MOOC seems to be bucking the trend with a reported 26% completion rate. If a bricks-and-mortar university was offering a course which had a completion rate this low, there’d be an outcry. This traditional thinking is being applied to MOOCs, even though the model they use is quite different to a traditional university. It may be that students learnt what they wanted or needed to know within the first few weeks of a MOOC, and didn’t see the point of completing it. Maybe they’ll return and complete some more of the course later. Because it’s free to enrol in a MOOC, there’s no pressure on students to stick with a course they don’t like in order to justify spending money on their education. Students (usually) enter traditional universities to graduate with a qualification that will help them with their career. Because MOOCs don’t currently offer this pathway, the “success” of students needs to be measured differently.

However, my experience with this MOOC hasn’t turned me off the idea completely. I’ve enrolled in an edX MOOC being offered by Harvard University which is due to start in October. It’s called Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science, and I think it will be interesting. It definitely falls into the “personal interest” rather than “professional development” category. Although maybe I could learn something that will help me win our staff ANZAC biscuit baking competition next year …