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Posts Tagged ‘Information Professionals’

Thinking of submitting a paper for the New Professionals Conference? Here’s some unofficial advice.

06 Apr
Wikiman logo made up of words

Believe it or not, this is my blog post about last year's New Professionals Conference, turned into my logo by the inimitable Dave Pattern

…..

(A lot of this applies to conference proposals generally.)

CILIP have announced details of the 2011 New Professionals Conference, which takes place in Manchester at the University, on June 20th. The Hashtag is #npc11 if you want to discuss it on Twitter etc.

There is currently a call for proposals to present, and I can’t recommend highly enough that you do this if you’re within 5 years of having joined the profession. You have till April 15th to get something in. All the details are on the CILIP website.

Why present?

It’s a brilliant experience! It takes you out of your comfort zone, it connects you to your peers, it gets you into the conference for free! It’s completely worth doing – I guarantee you’ll feel differently about the profession afterwards, more positive, more energised and more excited.

Subject matter

Important disclaimer: I was on the organising committee last year and involved with choosing the successful papers, but I am NOT involved this year, so these views are just my opinion and are in no way official. Kay?

The most important thing about the subject matter is making it appropriate to the context of the conference. So for example, something about the value of libraries generally might be really interesting and really entertaining, but it might not be as useful for this particular conference as something which the delegates can take away and apply to their own lives, and to their own careers. Think about the utility of what you’re saying, and the ‘take-homes’ that the people watching your presentation will get from it.

Be explicit about the value of your presentation. You have 300 words to play with – I’d probably use 250 to talk about the topic, and the last 50 would start with the phrase ‘this paper will be beneficial to new professionals because…’.

Get a second pair of eyes on it before you send it off – another opinion is almost always helpful.

Format

Same disclaimer as above – this is my opinion, and is certainly nothing official or endorsed by the organisers.

I think, personally, the formatting of your proposal really matters. The organisers of this event are volunteering and doing it on their own time, so there’s not always the luxury of a huge amount of time to discuss the proposals. There’ll probably be more than 40 decent ideas, and it takes a long time to get through that much stuff. So anything that’s poorly put together is already heading towards the ‘maybe’ or ‘no’ piles rather than the ‘yes’ pile. Of course the content of the proposal is by far the most important thing, but that oft quoted scenario of ‘two otherwise equal candidates’ actually applies quite often in this type of situation, so don’t put yourself at a disadvantage. Poor formatting shows a lack of attention to detail, and a lack of understanding of the assessment process. For what it’s worth, here’s what I would do if I were submitting:

  • Send a PDF – Word docs are only fit for emailing to people if there’s a chance the recipient may need to edit it.
  • Don’t use Times New Roman, use Calibri, Arial or similar, and make it a normal rather than tiny or huge font size.
  • Include your name, a short bio and your email address in the document (this does not have to fit into the 300 words – make it clear which section is which). You may have also put some or all of this stuff in the email you send it in, but the chances are the panel will be printing out all the documents and getting together over coffee to go through everything – they don’t want to be making notes or printing emails. Put everything in one place for their easy reference.
  • It goes without saying, proof-read it to death. Read it out loud to catch mistakes, and don’t rely on the spell-check – I still find myself having used the wrong their / there / they’re from time-to-time… Americanised spellings are another thing spell-check might not catch.
  • Send it to someone whose opinion you trust, and get them to check it over too.

 

And if you do get accepted…

You’ll be asked to write a ‘full proposal’ by June. This is really just to check you can follow up on your promises and deliver a full paper. It doesn’t have to be written to a journal standard of prose and referencing. When I presented in 2009, I wrote mine up all formally and then a week before the conference, I started to practice delivering it and realised that I’d have to completely rework it. I couldn’t read it out loud as it was (that would have been rubbish) and I couldn’t even just split it up into notes (the tone and phrases were suitable for being read alone, not said out loud to an audience). So don’t beat yourself up trying to write the full proposal – it’d be more productive to write the notes you plan to learn or speak from, and then turn THOSE into the full-proposal, not the other way around. More tips on presenting for first time speakers are available elsewhere on the blog.

All just my opinion of course. :) Here’s another one – last year’s Best Paper prize winner Bronagh offers her views too.

Good luck!

-    thewikiman

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The time for libraries is NOW

14 Mar
The time for information professionals is NOW, too.

The idea of this is to position the information professional as someone who will be increasingly important in an information-driven world, and to try and market the library in a more positive light. It’s inspired by the Shift Happens deck, as so much of the jaw-dropping information which that presentation contains seems to strengthen The Case for the Librarian…

I can reupload an edited version of this to Slideshare at any time, so let me know if you have suggestions for further ideas about the value of us or our institutions, and I’ll see if I can explore them with additional slides.

I’ve created these slides to act as library advocacy, so obviously I’d love them to be seen outside of the echo chamber – if you can think of any way for me to achieve this, let me know! The deck is available under a Creative Commons licence via Slideshare, so please feel free to embed it anywhere you see fit – I can honestly say I’ve never put so much work into a bunch of slides, so I’d love to see it in as many places as possible…

Update: They’ve got on to the hot on Twitter section of Slideshare’s home page already, which is great! A mini #echolib escape – they are sure to be checked out by people who don’t normally view library stuff. I’m not on Facebook, but if people can get it in to the Hot On Facebook section too that would be amazing. :)

Update II: okay, that worked! Thank you – it got Hot on Facebook and Twitter at the same time, ensuring loads of non-library people will have seen it. It’s had over 3000 views in less than 36 hours – thanks for helping me promote it!

- thewikiman

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How would you behave if Privacy didn’t exist?

31 Jan
Picture of a padlock

Click to view original on StockXChange

A lot of the prominent stories recently emanating from our world, and the wider world, are linked by the subject of Privacy. It runs like a vein through so many contemporary stories, that I wonder if people will look back on the years around the turn of this decade as a tipping point for privacy. Perhaps we’re about to go one of two ways – a future in which nothing is really private, or something a little more Orwellian where privacy is shut down, globally, off the back of Bush-administration style rhetoric about ‘national security’.

Sometimes, the privacy stories directly intersect with library stories (such as the controversy around the Library of Congress’s handling of the wikileaks saga), but even when they don’t, it’s all relevant. Privacy is about access to information, and we are the Information Professionals.

The big stories

Many of the biggest stories at the moment are privacy related. The phone-hacking scandal currently rocking the Murdoch empire, for example. Of course Wikileaks is the most obvious one – there are many levels of privacy involved here. People were doing or saying things they thought were private, which were recorded by third parties who in turn thought this would be kept private. Then along comes a whistle-blower who makes the information available to a website, who in turn make it available to the world. For the most part the information only has value because of some distinctly librarian-like intervention between the data being leaked, and we the public ingesting it. 300,000 files on a memory stick is pretty useless on its own – hours and hours of collating, sorting, curating and research, in this case by journalists, give the information the accessibility it needs to be communicable to a large audience. Information overload is also a factor here – absolutely incredible stories, scoops of the year in their own right at any other time, get down-graded because of their proximity to so many other high-interest pieces of information. We become immunised to scandal when we get too much of it at one time.

It is interesting to think how much revelatory material is currently waiting to be unearthed, once someone has done the research to make it viable for public release. It is interesting to wonder how diplomacy will work in the future, if everyone knows that everything they say may one day be read in the paper by you or I.

Recent events in Egypt have taken in Privacy related elements too. The Government wanted privacy; they didn’t want easy communication between the people and the outside world, regarding the week-long protests that have been happening in Cairo and elsewhere.  So they turned off the internet.

Surely these two examples show the two ways this could go? Everyone knowing everything, or no one being allowed to communicate anything.

The logistics of leaking

As the excellent Guardian Week in Review podcast pointed out, it is very easy to breach privacy these days. Wikileaks gets hold of 300,000 files at a time – can you imagine trying to carry that many pieces of paper out of a building, at all, let alone covertly? You’d need a lorry parked outside, for a start. Electronic data transfer facilitates leaks – you send things across the ether, or you can save them onto a memory stick the size of your thumb.

Not only that but technology tends to become smaller as it gets more advanced, and so a: more discrete and b: more ubiquitous because you can fit it into more stuff. An absolutely extraordinary number of people own mobile phones – some estimates put the figure as high as 5 billion mobiles in circulation – and pretty much all of those being sold today have cameras and video cameras as standard now. This is technology which would have been super-spy territory a couple of decades ago – devices capable of recording anything, that can fit in your pocket, and that look like something else and give no indication they’re recording? Everyone can create the news now.

Not only that, but we have plenty of technology at our finger tips which allows pretty much instantaneous dissemination of whatever we have to share.

The smaller stories

Many privacy stories come about simply because people act differently if they don’t think they’re accountable for their actions. If they don’t think their private actions will become public, they don’t attempt to filter their behaviour. When they do become public, the people have to apologise and show contrition – as if it was only the fact that their actions came to light publicly that somehow enlightened them as to the fact those actions were wrong.

The MPs expenses scandal is an example of this – they were comfortable with what they were doing, until the private actions came under public scrutiny, and then they were all suddenly aware of their moral failings and very sorry. The recent departures of Keys and Gray from Sky’s football coverage is similar – they acted in a way they knew was inappropriate in the eyes of the public, only because they didn’t think those eyes would ever see those actions.

We all do this. I’m glad Keys and Grey are gone, they were buffoons. Their comments were indicative of their misogyny, and unpleasantly bullying. But who hasn’t said something privately that would get them into enormous trouble if it was made public? As a case in point, I played poker with some male friends on Friday night, and we spent much of the night satirising Gray and Keys, impersonating them and so on. But context is everything – if you were to see footage of our conversation with the context stripped away, it would be just six men sitting round a table drinking and making sexist remarks.

Our stories

This is relevant to us and to libraries and to information, for many reasons. Particularly the way we use Search Engines. Because we use them, for the first part, thinking we are doing so in private. Would we use them differently if we knew our actions would become public? As the experience of the recent Yahoo! leak shows, I think we would. It’s not just that people use the internet to access the seedier side of human existence, it’s that our whole lives can be pieced together from the questions we ask of Yahoo!, Google and the rest. Our hopes, our fears, our indiscretions, our health, our finances, our plans – our identity. Google is keen not to be evil now, but the information it has on us already will be around forever. Forever! Who knows what the next generation of owners / CEOs will do with it all.

Facebook is much more openly evil, and plays around with your privacy all the time. We all know this, but as Bobbi Newman pointed out to me, a large percentage of its half-billion-plus users (that’s one in four internet users in the world) will not be fully aware of this or of its implications.

The future

How would you behave if privacy didn’t exist? Most of us would behave differently, I think. Our private morality would be more closely aligned with our public morality. The tabloids who, happy in their own rank hypocrisy, crow about Gray’s ‘disgraceful’ sexist comments about a female referee whilst simultaneously trying to objectify her in the accompanying out-of-context pictures of her at a nightclub, would not find it so easy to preach about what they so clearly don’t practice themselves. But it occurs to me that if this IS a tipping point in privacy, then perhaps we’re already happily revealing everything about ourselves, it’s just that the information will be made public retrospectively.

So perhaps we should all start behaving as if privacy didn’t exist now, to save embarrassment later..? In any case, the role of the Information Professional will surely be of increasing importance, in providing guidance and education, as the stakes associated with digital literacy, information literacy, transliteracy, grow ever higher.

- thewikiman

NB: Hilariously, since writing this piece this morning, and coming back to proof-read it and add the links this afternoon, I’ve since read a piece by Charlie Brooker in the Guardian this very day saying, in some cases, pretty much exactly the same thing – except more entertainingly… You can read his article here.

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VIDEO: Library Day in the Life

27 Jan

Library Day in the Life is a bi-annual initiative to document what library professionals really do these days, insitgated by Bobbi Newman. I’ve taken part in previous rounds with normal blog posts but frankly nobody ever really reads them – this time I wanted to do something a bit more interesting and a bit more visual.

So I’ve created a video of one day in my library life – the effort-to-end-product ratio of this is all out of sync as it took fricking ages! But anyway, here it is, I hope people like it.

In case anyone is interested, I used a Logitech webcam, my iPhone, my wife’s fairly ancient digitial camera, and BB Flashback Express screen-recording software to record it – and Windows Movie Maker to edit it all together. Music is by Mint Royale.

A couple of the best bits just would not work in Movie Maker. They play fine on their own, but they froze when I stuck them into the film. No idea why, it’s not done that to me before – so I’m afraid a screen-grab about LIFE-SHARE is gone, and a bit about #buyalib is gone too. I had waaaaaaay too much footage, too… Note to self: no need to film the entire commute. :)

- thewikiman

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