Cambridge Libraries Conference talk now online

In my last post, I mentioned that I had given a lightning talk at the 2018 Cambridge Libraries Conference. My talk was on the systematic reviews advent calendar that I put together in late 2017.

Image_Blogpost_Cambridge Libraries Conference 2018

I’m pleased to announce that the slides from the talk have now been uploaded to the University of Cambridge repository (typos and all — ooops!). You can view them here. The full collection of conference presentations is here.

The talk is also up on Youtube – it starts (after the introduction) at 1.30 in the embedded video.

Videos of all the presentations can be found here.

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Taking the plunge: Cambridge Libraries Conference 2018

If there was one common theme of the 2018 iteration of the annual Cambridge Libraries Conference, it was that good things follow when we library professionals get outside our comfort zone, challenge ourselves, and try something a bit different. With that in mind, I’m going to try something new with my conference report, and write it less in the style of a blog post, and more in the style of a Storify story: embedded tweets (and other content), with contextualising reflections from me. No matter what style of conference writeup, I could never hope to document everything that happened on the day, so what follows are my main takeaways from the event.

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Cambridge University Librarian Dr Jess Gardner set the tone for the event, with an opening address calling for inclusion, hope, and renewal.

This was followed by a powerful keynote address from Dr Meredith Evans, Director of the Jimmy Carter Library in Atlanta in the US. Her talk was about work done in her former role of Associate University Librarian at Washington University in St Louis, where she was part of the ‘Documenting Ferguson’ project – a community-curated digital archive of materials associated with the protests at the police shooting of unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown. The video she opened with set the scene.

Different audience members found different elements of Dr Evans’ work notable:

For me, as well as being struck by the the vital, immediate nature of the Documenting Ferguson project, the main takeaway was that we as informational professionals need to be open to new ways of doing things, and to relinquish control — the results can be startling and powerful. I appreciated the chance to learn from a librarian from a different country and sector, doing very different work — it was clear that in spite of these differences, her experiences were of direct relevance to academic librarians in the UK.

Openness and willingness to change was definitely the theme of my first parallel session, on interactivity and gamefication of library-led information literacy teaching, by Dr J. Adam Evans and Dr Vanessa Hill (Library Liaison Manager and Service Development Liaison Librarian respectively at Middlesex University).

Some examples of the games used at Middlesex:

The best result of this style of teaching? A big boost in student confidence. While not all of the games demonstrated during the session will work for my students (some are aimed much more at new undergraduates, while my students are almost all postgraduates, researchers, or professional healthcare staff), I am hoping to incorporate the keyword/synonym game and some variations of the others into the training I deliver.

Innovation and trying new, scary things were definitely the theme of the two sessions of lightning talks. My own challenge was to present a lightning talk of my own, on the systematic reviews advent calendar I had put together in late 2017 for my library.

Sometimes trying something new means simply being audacious enough to ask bold questions of the right person – the result may have quite an impact! This was certainly the case for Dr Matthias Ammon and Dr Arthur Smith, who were involved in efforts to make Stephen Hawking’s PhD thesis open access.

How can you quantify the impact of bringing a cat into your library to hang out with students, as Clare Trowell and Simon Frost (Librarian and Deputy Librarian at the Marshall Library in Cambridge) did?

Once again, taking the plunge and doing something that had never been done before proved popular, with wide-reaching impact.

My ‘Storify’ (on WordPress) only scratches the surface of what was an interesting and stimulating conference. Do check out the conference hashtag if you want to see other attendees’ thoughts and impressions. Claire Sewell of the Office of Scholarly Communication has also uploaded detailed notes of the sessions she attended, should you want to read more longform reactions to the conference. I would strongly encourage all Cambridge library staff to get involved in next year’s conference in whatever way they feel comfortable: lightning talks or posters are a great way to share projects that you’ve been doing, as well as learn from colleagues, while being on the conference committee gives valuable experience. And never underestimate how much you can learn simply from being an engaged member of the audience!

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End of the year reflections

I have one day left at work before I leave for the Christmas holidays, and I wanted to spend a few moments reflecting and taking stock on the events of this year — because it’s certainly been an eventful one! This year I took on more projects, challenged and pushed myself more, and I hope that the things I’ve done and produced reflect that.

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These are the new things I’ve done this year:

  • Managed the transition back from temporary office space to the newly refurbished library. My training delivery during the move had been peripatetic, hopping from seminar room to seminar room depending on which spaces were available, dealing with limitations of software and equipment. After moving back to the renovated library, I had to work hard, along with colleagues, to remind users that we existed, and that we were back in our old building. Once word spread, however, training requests picked up, and indeed the volume was higher than in previous years.
  • Presented a lightning talk at the annual Cambridge Libraries conference on my experiences of training without a training room — going from a suite of dedicated PCs to a little trolley full of laptops and portable wifi device.
  • Developed a new approach to teaching critical appraisal involving a lot more outreach, teaching invited, subject-specific sessions at the request of individual user groups. This involved liaising with the users about the paper to appraise, reading and making my own evaluative notes, and then facilitating the sessions. These sessions were so appreciated by the groups who requested them that many have decided to make them a regular occurrence at annual meetings, training days and so on, and have thus been a really successful way to build up visibility for the library and what we can offer.
  • Attended an international conference.
  • Went on secondment for two months in a very different department and role to my main job, learning a lot about open access advocacy and compliance in the process — all of which I was able to translate back into concrete changes in information I provided in my main role.
  • Participated in two intralibrary projects within the University: one to develop an information literacy teaching and learning framework for students, and the other (which is ongoing) to apply UX techniques to map the student learning experience across the University.
  • Created a systematic reviews advent calendar which unlocks new resources for every stage of the systematic reviews process each day between 1-24 December. This advent calendar has been a huge success, generating hundreds of page views each day, and being linked to by prominent experts in the field, including PRISMA and local NHS Trusts.
  • Had a lightning talk proposal accepted for next year’s Cambridge Libraries Conference.
  • It’s been a pretty big year, and I’m proud of all the interesting work I’ve done, on top of the day-to-day challenges of my regular role. I’m grateful for the opportunities to participate in projects with colleagues in other libraries, as well as to learn from people in different sectors. I hope next year is as full of learning and adventures as 2017 has been!

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    How I became a Pixabay convert

    I can’t remember where I first heard about Pixabay, a free repository of downloadable, CC0 images, but what I do remember is that its utility was not immediately apparent to me. I am not a picture person: I like words, and reading, and writing, and that extends to my preferences for the presentation of information online. And so when I first heard about Pixabay, I filed it away in a compartment of my brain labelled ‘interesting, but not very useful for me’ and promptly forgot all about it. It was a change in the way Twitter displayed links (so that a preview image was embedded in the tweet) that made me realise I was going to have to get a lot more comfortable with pictures: a tweet linking a webpage with no images just looked ugly. See, for example, this old tweet of mine:

    It was then that I remembered Pixabay. In January 2017, I made a conscious decision to include an image in every blog post I wrote, both on this personal blog, and also on my library’s newsfeed (if you click on individual news items, you will see the images), for which I share responsibility for creating content. Some of these images are photos taken around the library, but a large majority are the work of others, uploaded to Pixabay and free to use anywhere, without attribution.

    Image_blogpost_camera pixabay

    I’m very grateful to these generous Pixabay photographers. Their work is generally of much higher quality than my own hasty attempts taken on the library iPad, and they also give me access to a much wider range of subject matter than I would be able to find in my day-to-day work in the library, where I’m not likely to encounter majestic mountains, sunset beaches, or romantic candlelit reading nooks! And now my tweets look like this:

    or this:

    or this:

    I think we can all agree that this is a vast improvement! And using Pixabay has had other, more far-reaching effects on how I communicate and conceptualise my own online communication. Precisely because I now don’t consider blog posts or news feed items of my own to be publishable until they have an image included, I’ve started paying more attention to the visual (rather than purely verbal) aspects of online communication. I’ve started caring about what my online communication looks like as well as what it says, and come to understand that the visual components are also communicating something. This personal requirement of mine to include images has also forced me to be more creative when creating online content: what image should I be using to represent ‘synthesising and summarising’, for example? How do I visually convey that I learnt a lot at a conference? What image should I use to stand in for the concept of critical appraisal? You’ll be better judges than I as to whether the images I chose successfully represented the concepts they were supposed to convey.

    For those of you who have blogs, or who contribute to newsfeeds or websites, or who use Twitter (and post a lot of links), I would strongly recommend making use of resources like Pixabay, and making your online content more image-heavy if you do not already do so. If nothing else, it makes you a bit more mindful of how you communicate, what you’re trying to communicate, and what that communication will look like across a variety of platforms. And it will add instant colour to your Twitter feed! That alone was enough to make this word-focused blogger a convert to the power of images!

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    I’ve spent the past two months on secondment at the university’s Office of Scholarly Communication, working two days a week as a repository assistant, uploading research outputs of researchers at the University of Cambridge to the university’s repository, Apollo. This involved editing the metadata of the uploaded articles, conference papers and other outputs, and ensuring that the uploaded files both fulfilled funder requirements for open access and complied with the copyright agreements the researchers had signed with their respective publishers. By a lucky coincidence, my secondment coincided with the announcement that Stephen Hawking had made his PhD thesis available on the repository, an announcement that subsequently caused the repository to crash for several days. So not only did I get to learn some valuable new skills, I also got to be in the room where it happened during a significant moment in the history of open access research at Cambridge.

    Image_Open Access_Blog

    So, what did I learn during my secondment? Quite a lot about the common misunderstandings and problems researchers have regarding open access. These tend to fall into one of two categories:

    • the researcher believes ‘open access’ means that the author-accepted version of a manuscript is uploaded to an institutional repository (while this can be the case in many instances, frequently this is not enough to fulfill funder requirements – for example, the funder may require that the article be published with immediate open access and a CC-BY license)
    • the researcher believes that ‘open access’ means ‘I am able to access it for free’, so submits a published (but not open access) version of the article to the repository, thinking that because they can access it for free using an institutional login, it is ‘open access’

    These two problems suggest to me that although the OSC, library staff and others are doing a significant amount of education and advocacy around open access, there is still much work to be done in order to improve researchers’ understanding. It has been my experience since undertaking the secondment that the researchers whose submissions to the repository are consistently compliant with both funders’ and publishers’ requirements tend to come from individual departments where administrators are particularly well-informed on open access, or where there is a culture of open access publishing and researchers have taken the time to educate themselves (either through OSC-led training or self-directed learning). This was particularly illuminating to me.

    As well as learning about common misunderstandings and pitfalls relating to open access, the secondment has enabled me to learn how to use specific open access tools and platforms: Zendesk, Symplectic Elements (which I was already using to list my own research outputs), and Apollo.

    My increased awareness of the common problems researchers appear to have with understanding open access and funder requirements have led me to make several changes in the teaching work I do in my regular role. I teach a course on (among other things) writing for publication. While this course already contains information about ensuring authors select a level of open access compliant with their funder’s requirements, I am going to emphasise this aspect of the course to a much greater extent, and I am going to expand on it to ensure fewer misunderstandings about the nature of open access. I am also going to put more information about open access on my library’s website, and will of course use the new knowledge gained from my time spent on secondment during any ad hoc queries I field about open access, writing for publication, or applying for grants.

    Posted in academic libraries, CILIP chartership evidence, personal narrative, resources, teaching and training | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

    Text and Data Mining Symposium

    I spent yesterday at a one-day text and data mining (TDM) symposium in Cambridge. The event brought together researchers, librarians and publishers to discuss the challenges, triumphs and future of TDM in the UK and wider research landscape. The contexts in which presenters were using TDM ranged from systematic literature reviews in medicine to digital humanities and palaeography, from chemistry to libraries. The full programme can be found here.

    Image_TDM data_Blog

    I want to focus on my two main takeaways from the symposium.

    Firstly, the use for TDM most immediately relevant to me is its application in systematic reviews. Researchers are already using TDM at every stage of the systematic review process, particularly during the searching and screening stages, and presenters at the symposium such as Alison O’Mara-Eves and John McNaught were enthusiastic about the vast savings in time and money that could be made were TDM to become a standard part of every systematic review conducted. In order to rigorously test the effectiveness of TDM in systematic reviews, both presenters (along with Makoto Miwa and Sophie Ananiadou) produced their own systematic review, in which they noted, among other things, that while TDM saved an enormous amount of time and money, the trade-off was a loss of around 5 per cent of references that would have been picked up using ‘traditional’ systematic review searching methods. That is, TDM software is only as good as the terms that are put into it, and the human being ‘training’ the software to find relevant data.

    Many TDM tools allow for some level of human involvement.

    The second theme of the symposium of most immediate relevance was that librarians need to get involved in TDM in whatever way we can — while retaining a level of critical skepticism about its value (sure, it might save time, but can we really afford to lose those crucial 5 per cent of papers that would have been found using traditional searching methods?). As Georgina Cronin pointed out, librarians may not have the expert technical skills (such as writing TDM code) to be able to carry out every aspect of TDM, but we can facilitate its use. There is a role for librarians to play at every point in the TDM workflow.

    Librarians should also remember that we have particular skills and expertise that can be of use with TDM in less obvious ways: we are good at finding information, communicating that information to others, and bringing people together — so why not use those skills in support of text and data miners working in our institutions?

    So far I’m still chewing over everything I learnt at the symposium, but I suspect it will spark a few changes at my library. I’ve been having ongoing conversations (and debates) with colleagues about the applicability and validity of using TDM in systematic reviews in particular, and we have yet to come to a conclusion. I am also in the process of figuring out how to fit the University’s new TDM LibGuide into my own library’s existing research support resources and training — expect to see it somewhere on our website and other training materials soon! While I’m still in the process of coming to my own conclusions about TDM and its role in my profession, I am certain that librarians need to be in the room when discussions about TDM are taking place, and that we need to keep abreast of new resources and developments in the field. If not, we run the risk of consensus on this issue being formed without us — and surely it’s better to be part of the conversation?

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    Report on EAHIL 2017

    Each year, the European Association for Health Information and Libraries (EAHIL) holds a conference, where librarians, educators, healthcare workers and researchers come from all over the world for talks, workshops, and posters on all aspects of medical librarianship. This year the conference was in Dublin, and I was able to attend for the first time.

    Image_Lighthouse_EAHIL 2017_blog

    I attended from the Wednesday onward (so unfortunately missed out on the first two days of continuing education courses), and made it a priority to go to as many sessions on teaching, education and training as possible. I also attended workshops on teaching search methods for evidence-based practice, developing a research data management programme, and teaching colleagues how to lead and conduct systematic reviews. While it is impossible to distill everything I learnt from this conference into a single blog post, between these parallel sessions, workshops, and the plenary papers, three key themes emerged, all of which have significant implications for my own practice. It’s worth looking at those themes in a little more detail.

    The first such theme — and something that had not really occurred to me before — is the fact that librarians need to be very careful in our use of statistics when trying to demonstrate the impact of the library. Numbers alone (e.g. circulation of books, number of attendees at training courses or one-to-one literature search sessions, or number of registration forms handed out at external induction events) paint an incomplete picture of the role of the library in users’ work, study or research. We need to ask questions that go beyond the numbers.

    This ties in with discussions that have been ongoing in my library about changing the kinds of evaluative questions we send to users after they attend training sessions. In the weeks immediately prior to the EAHIL conference, I, along with colleagues, had been reworking our evaluation forms to bring them more in line with those used in the NHS Knowledge for Healthcare Impact Toolkit. Attending EAHIL and hearing other health librarians talk about the importance of more targeted surveying that goes beyond mere numbers thus reinforced the appropriateness of this decision. I will be expediting the production of my library’s new evaluation form, and hope to be using it for all training delivered from late June onward.

    The second core theme of the conference was the importance of user-centred design in all aspects of a library: layout, furniture and equipment, use of particular spaces, resources (both electronic and physical), and types of training and support on offer. It’s no good having a state-of-the-art library with expensive furniture, or a beautifully revamped library website if the furniture is uncomfortable or not suited to the kinds of work users want to use it for, or the website is incompatible with mobile devices (which a majority of people in the world now use to access online content), for example. This is obviously connected with the first theme — we can only figure out how users are using our libraries (or how they would like to use them) if we ask the right questions.

    Asking questions need not only come in the form of surveys, evaluation forms and the like. Colleagues at my library have already done extensive work in consulting users about their use of library space and preferences regarding furniture, using a variety of user experience (UX) techniques. This UX work fed into choices the library made regarding furniture and the layout of the library following a renovation last year. I would like to build on this to extend consultation of users to issues beyond space and equipment, focusing on my own areas of responsibility: training and teaching. The redesigned evaluation forms are obviously a good first step, but it may also be necessary to go into more depth, with semi-structured interview and the like. Given my colleagues’ UX project, I’m well placed to draw on their experience and expertise if I were to pursue a similar project in relation to the library’s teaching and training provision.

    The final major theme of the conference — and one that was common to talks from librarians from New Zealand to Kenya, from Finland to Romania — was the absolutely crucial nature of faculty/institutional support when it came to uptake of library-led information literacy training. I attended many parallel sessions presented by librarians talking about their experience getting information literacy programmes off the ground (mainly in university libraries or teaching hospitals), and all were emphatic that only way to increase attendance and ensure that students understood about librarians’ skills and expertise in information literacy was through support at faculty or institutional level. Some mentioned that uptake increased significantly (from 38% to 98%) once library-led training was made a compulsory part of students’ courses. Conversely, uptake was lower in library-led courses where faculty support was missing, or where academic staff seemed unaware that information literacy training was an area of library staff expertise. Unfortunately, sometimes this lack of institutional support is hard to combat:

    Understandably, many attendees at the education-track parallel sessions were keen to learn from the presenters how they had gained this rather elusive institutional support.

    The presenters on this topic gave varied answers. Some had been fortunate enough to have been asked by faculty to develop and deliver information literacy training, and given all the support they needed without having to ask for it. Others were still struggling to advocate for the role of the library in this area. Still others felt that providing demonstrable evidence of the impact of library-led training on students’ studies (or researchers’ research, or patient care) was the best way to promote the value of this service. This reinforces, again, the need to gather meaningful data to provide concrete evidence of the library’s impact.

    My own experience of obtaining institutional support has been rather mixed. There are certain user groups whose administrators or course coordinators are staunch advocates of the library, and regularly organise training and inductions for their new staff and students. Others, who may not be aware of the support the library can offer, are less likely to point their students in the library’s direction. I feel the best way to make concrete changes in this area is a twofold approach: more targeted and focused outreach to all user groups (and gathering data to determine how effective this outreach has been), and extensive evaluation of the impact of current training provision on those who use it already. The latter will hopefully provide measurable, concrete evidence of the importance of library-led training, as well as indicating aspects of training that need to be changed, scrapped, or built on to better reflect user needs. As mentioned above, I am already in the process of improving the library’s analysis and evaluation of training provision. Those of us responsible for marketing and outreach are also in the early stages of developing tools to measure the impact of our marketing activities.

    EAHIL 2017 thus left me with lots to chew on, as well as the knowledge that colleagues all around the world were dealing with similar problems and concerns. It was fantastic to have the opportunity to learn from colleagues in libraries from my sector, particularly those outside the UK. Best of all, the conference has confirmed that several recent changes in practice (and current projects to facilitate these changes) implemented in my library are wholly appropriate and necessary. Let’s hope next year’s conference in Cardiff proves as thought-provoking and useful!

    Those who were not able to attend EAHIL 2017 may want to look into the #eahil2017 hashtag, where attendees were livetweeting their impressions of the conference.

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