Archive for November, 2012

This is the second and last post on the Internet Librarian International Conference I attended recently, summarising some of the most interesting and helpful content from the sessions I attended. Read on if you are interested in making training sessions more interactive or for issues to consider when presenting data to clients or management.


How we stopped giving instructors what we know they need and how that changed everything by Rochelle Mazar

This was a very interesting session by Rochelle Mazar on an innovative approach taken on library training. At the University of Toronto, rather than delivering information about the library in a traditional lecture form in a classroom, they changed their training style radically to a ‘try it, and then ask us as we are here to support you’ approach. The library staff provided faculty members with an environment where they could choose what they wanted to try out and figure out for themselves what the library could offer them. Instead of a static classroom, the library provided a space with movable chairs, tables, laptops, PCs and iPads with library staff to support and help as needed. This interactive style of training also provided the faculty with the opportunity to speak with each other about their needs and any new approaches they could take, as well as the opportunity to experiment on new equipment and technology. I think this is a great way to conduct training, particularly for academic libraries, although foreseeable challenges include having the new technology to inspire the faculty to experiment, be innovative and be willing to accept change, and the practicality of getting members of a department in the same room at the same time!

New frontiers for research: data sets by Marydee Ojala

I was particularly interested in this session as myself and Sam Wiggins will be preparing a survey and analysing the results in preparation for our session at the next BIALL conference. Marydee spoke about how datasets can be used to demonstrate where we add value and return on investment as library professionals. Marydee ran through some very good questions we should ask ourselves when presenting data:

  • Are we counting the right things?
  • Are we interpreting results correctly?
  • Are we presenting numbers in an understandable and meaningful way?

With these questions in mind, when presenting results we should consider the effect of these aspects on results:

  • The sample size
  • The average or median, and what this reveals
  • Any possible bias (for example, is your target group for a survey of a particular demographic?)
  • Percentages
  • How the data was gathered
  • Any potential misunderstanding that could be read in to the results

My conclusion

Overall, I did enjoy the Internet Librarian Conference, but as 45 minute sessions were split between 2 to 3 speakers on different topics, I felt that subjects did not go in to as much depth as I would have liked, and that a lot of the sessions were about specific projects that had been implemented; which were interesting, but sometimes did not offer much practical advice or were not easily applicable to other libraries in different sectors.


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On Wednesday I attended the Internet Librarian International Conference, which was my first conference in the UK. Since I have recently found out that I will be speaking with Sam Wiggins at the annual BIALL conference in Glasgow 2013, I was eager to see the presenters speak and learn from the sessions.

Due to having the journey from Hell getting from where I live in East London to Kensington in West London, I was very disappointed to miss the keynote speaker presenting on the journey to digital at the British Library. The format for the day were 45 minute sessions featuring 2 or 3 speakers, and themed on search, discovery or marketing and performance.

The 1st session I attended was the one I found the most interesting, useful and relevant to my work and personal online experience. It was called ‘Super searching’, and featured Karen Blakeman (@karenblakeman) speaking on how Google is increasingly personalising our search results due to our use of social media, and Arthur Weiss speaking on unknown Google features that you wouldn’t know were there unless specifically told.

 Search turns social: resistance is futile by Karen Blakeman

What I took away from this session was that Google is increasingly personalising our search results, and to some extent there is not much we can do about it. You may have noticed that more and more websites ask us to log in via Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus. By doing so these websites ensure that they are prioritised by Google in search results, and similarly websites that have social media buttons that allow you to share information via Twitter, Facebook, etc. are also ranked highly in search results by Google. Furthermore, Google is prioritising individuals over websites in search results, and increasingly social media profiles for individuals are rising to the top of search results, unsurprisingly Google Plus profiles in particular. Results are beginning to show items, videos and articles your social media friends have looked at; assuming that you may have similar interests. This may well be useful, but what if you want to stop Google from personalising your results using your social media contacts and search history in this way?

  • Chrome has an Incognito Mode, that removes most personalisation from search results
  • Internet Explorer offers an In-Private Browsing mode
  • Firefox offers a Do Not Track Me mode

Karen also touched upon something Phil Bradley spoke upon at the CILIP New Professionals Day back in May, which was that if Facebook ever offered a decent search engine, then users would never leave Facebook. Google and Facebook raise revenues through advertising, and consequently the longer users spend on their websites the better.

We may not like the amount of data Google collects about us, and instinctively we may repulse from the Big Brother nature of internet giants such as Google and Facebook and how they are feeding us search results according to their perception of our information needs. However, personalisation is not necessarily a bad thing. Google says that personalisation provides a seamless social experience, and it does pull out information relating to our friends that may normally be way down the results list past the 1st page of results where we rarely ever go. Karen also compared the social nature of Google searching to the days of information searching before the Internet – when we asked not Google, but our friends or colleagues, and asked ‘who do I know who can help me find this information?’, and I think this comparison of pre-Internet search networks to social media networks is a very thought provoking one.

The Unknown Google: features and functions not see on the search bar by Arthur Weiss

Arthur provided an overview of Google features that people may not have used before, which covered tools that may be useful for work, and others that were just interesting or fun to learn of. Google Books, Google Scholar and Google’s newspaper archive were covered, although librarians probably know if these resources by now. But here are some that I didn’t know about:

Fusion Tables

Can be found at: http://www.google.com/drive/start/apps.html#fusiontables

With fusion tables you can import data from a Google search, and graph, map or put the data into a table.

Public data

Can be found at: http://www.google.co.uk/publicdata/directory

Provides official figures from the World bank, OECD, Eurostat, and more, and you can choose for the data to be displayed in various formats, including tables, graphs and bar charts.

 Trends/think insights

Can be found at: http://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/insights/

This provides analytics for webmasters, trends on what people are searching for, market research reports, and offers the facility to ask Google a question and they will provide you with an answer back.

Google’s Cultural Institute

This was my favourite discovery from the conference, although I can’t see how it would ever be useful for my work as a legal librarian! It is a basically an international virtual museum, that allows you to wander around some of the most famous art galleries and museums in the world as if you are actually in the gallery building itself. Furthermore, its World Wonders Project allows you to view both ancient and modern wonders in the world as if you were using Street View, which I cannot wait to try for myself!

There are a number of web addresses for this:

Digital art collections: http://www.googleartproject.com

Streeview collections, including world wonders, art galleries, and even oceans! http://maps.google.com/intl/en/help/maps/streetview/gallery.html

Google’s Cultural Institute: http://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/

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