Friday, 21 October 2011

CPD 23 - Thing 23 - Reflection & What's Next?

This is the final thing. The end of the CPD 23 scheme. It has been fun and I've learnt a lot. It has genuinely helped me to develop professionally.

I have gained some useful technical knowledge about tools like Jing and Audacity and Prezis. Using RSS feeds has given my professional reading new focus.

Perhaps even more important than knowing more about various tools I have adopted a mindset of evaluating new tools for their potential usefulness. Evaluating the uses that I could put them to in the Library and their potential uses as learning tools for our students. I think learning to look at technology with that kind of reflective attitude is going to be one of the most long lasting things that I take from this scheme.

I like to think of myself as a reflective person but I have gained a lot from the process of writing this blog. CPD 23 has helped me to firmly integrate blogging into my life and my professional practice. I said in a very early thing, it might even have been number one, that I am one of those people who write to think.

I admire the CPD 23 organisers decision to build a strong emphasis on reflection into the scheme. That emphasis combined with the structured blogging has really helped me to reflect on my own professional practice and the wider context that we are working in.

The reminder that reflection is the key to professional development has been welcome. I think for me personally however the usefulness of this blog as a venue and a tool for reflection has perhaps been the more life changing lesson.

The community element of the scheme has also been memorable. I've enjoyed reading other participants' blogs and sharing ideas. That sense that we were exploring things together and sharing our experiences was a powerful part of CPD 23.

I'd like to thank everyone who helped to set this up. It has been a great journey.

Where next?

In terms of my career development completing Chartership is my big project at the moment. Interestingly one of the first steps in that process is drawing up a personal professional development plan similar to the one that the CPD 23 post for thing 23 mentions. Identifying areas for development and deciding how to fill them is clearly a useful exercise.

My plan is slightly different because I need to fulfil the Chartership criteria but the essential idea is the same. Drawing up my PPDP for Chartership really helped me to think about what I wanted to do in order to progress as a librarian.

I should say that I put completing CPD 23 on my Chartership PPDP. It seems oddly circular that at the end of the scheme we've been advised to draw up a professional development plan.

In the long run the important thing for me is to hold onto the good habits that I've gained from CPD 23 and the Chartership process. Habits like reflecting on my own practice and development. Habits like using this blog as a tool for reflection and sharing ideas. I intend to hold onto and build on those habits.

That's thing 23 done!

CPD 23 - Thing 22 - Volunteering

My own experiences of volunteering have been overwhelmingly positive. I would recommend it to anyone both as a way to further your career and simply as a way to have some interesting experiences. I have no doubt that my time volunteering in a secondary school library played a very real part in helping me to secure my current job. It gave me a real insight into what working in an educational library involves. I also got hands on experience of lots of different aspects of librarianship.

The school library had other volunteers but as a library science student who was there to get professional experience I was entrusted with a wider range of tasks and a greater level of responsibility. I produced a series of information resources guides. I helped teachers and students with enquiries. I researched and reported on the possibility of lending ebooks and / or ebook readers.

I won't list everything I did but essentially I feel that I was given a real chance to taste what being a School Librarian would be like. I will always be very grateful for that opportunity.

In my pre-librarianship life I did various other bits of voluntary work. Regular readers will remember that I recently mentioned my time as an English teacher and a conservation worker in Peru. I hope that post gave an impression of what a great experience that was. I have also been doing children's group work for my local church for several years.

For the purposes of this 'thing' the interesting thing about these examples of volunteering is that although I didn't see them as career opportunities when I signed up they did actually play an important part in shaping my career. They guided me into teaching which in turn led me to working in an academic library. Arguably those voluntary jobs played their part in leading me to librarianship. Their role was indirect obviously but the lesson is perhaps that voluntary work might turn out to be useful in ways that aren't obvious at first.

Actually I met my now wife doing youth work for the church but this is meant to be about the career development benefits of volunteering.

I am very positive about voluntary work. It has had a huge positive impact on my life. However the sad truth is that today must surely be a difficult time to be a volunteer in libraries and in other public services. The combination of Big Society talk from politicians and the huge budget cuts must make volunteers feel that they need to tread very carefully to avoid undermining rather than supporting the services that they love (and in many cases hope to find paid work in one day). I'm sure many of them will be worrying about this even when they are in roles that have always been voluntary. I worry that current policy will have the opposite effect to the intended one and end up undermining Britain's previously healthy culture of volunteering.

Ok, I'll get off my soapbox now. I don't want to end my post about volunteering on a negative note. If you are thinking about voluntary work don't be put off by the difficult political climate. It really is a great way to gain experience and to develop your skills. It also has lots of other advantages. From meeting people to increasing your confidence to feeling that you are helping your community.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

CPD 23 - Thing 21 - Promoting yourself in job applications and interviews

Oh dear. Job hunting. Shudder. Have I mentioned that finding my first professional library post was hard work?

I do have some hard won advice. I don't know how profound it is and I know that it's mostly available elsewhere. Also you might be better off taking advice from someone who got the first job they applied for.

I'm going to focus on advice for people who are looking for their first professional role because that's the stage I came through last year.

All that said here's my advice...

Advice for library school students.

- Experience. You need to get as much experience as you can while you are studying. Apply for part time jobs. Do voluntary work. (More about volunteering in the next thing.) Do whatever it takes to get as much experience as you can while you are studying. This will make you look better as a candidate and it will give you more to talk about in your interview(s).

- Research. Use your research skills. Find out about the roles and sectors that you are interested in. Doing your homework on the job market while you are studying will give you a head start. (Don't get depressed though. It is tough out there.)

Advice for people looking for their first professional post

- Looking for jobs to apply for

Follow @uklibrary jobs on twitter.

Look at CILIP's own Lisjobnet.

Sign up with Sue Hill recruitment. They are library and information work specialists. There are others. Have a look round.

Most councils give you the opportunity to sign up for vacancy notifications. Some universities and colleges offer the same service. Sign up for these.

Use your contacts. Let people know you are looking for library work. Word of mouth is a very useful way to find out about vacancies.

- Applying for jobs.

Keep a record of the vacancies that you have found and the ones that you have applied for.

Take your time over each application and make sure that you are completely happy with your work before you send it off. Sending out a shoddy application is a waste of time.

Keep sending the applications out. Perseverance is key.

The person specification is vitally important. The people looking over your application and considering your interview answers will be judging you against those criteria. On your application form (or in your application letter) address each point one by one. Don't leave a point out. If you don't think you quite fit one do the best you can.

- Interviews

Don't panic. How do you manage that? Erm. Following the rest of this advice might help. If not find out what works for you.

Preparation. Prepare answers for probable questions. There are standard questions that almost always come up. Things like...'Tell us about yourself.''Why do you want this job?' 'What's your greatest weakness?' Apart from that remember they are judging you against the criteria in the person specification and judging your ability to do the job as outlined in the job description. Thanks to those two documents you know exactly what the interviewers are looking for. Use that knowledge to guess what questions they will ask. Prepare answers to all likely questions.

The CAR answer pattern in the CPD 23 post for this is very effective. Use that when planning your answers.

Practice answering questions. Interview practice is horrible. It brings up some of the same fears as real interviews. For example you worry that you are going to sound like an idiot. Put that fear to one side. Practicing will make you more confident and less likely to sound like an idiot when it really matters. Practice with friends and family or use any careers support that is available to you.

Practice on your own if your friends and family get fed up with listening to you. There are private consultants you can use. I have the details of a good one somewhere. I'll dig that out and update this. The CPD 23 post for thing 21 says CILIP members are entitled to two sessions of careers advice per year. I didn't know that. It's a useful tip.

- Coping with rejection

Don't get down if it doesn't go well. Think of failed interviews as practice for the next one. Make sure you get feedback and work on any areas for improvement that they mention.

- Perseverance

Keep at it. Stay positive. When you get the right job you probably will be glad that you didn't get that other job you went for.

Good luck.

CPD 23 - Thing 20 - Library Routes - Further Thoughts

I wrote about my route into librarianship for thing 10. If you are looking for my post for the Library Routes Project Wiki it's back a bit. CPD 23 - Thing 10 - Becoming a Librarian. The link from the Wiki will take you straight there but I realise this title is potentially confusing. There will be some clarification here but thing 10 is really the place to go if you want to know about my journey into librarianship.

As you've probably guessed I have added my story to the Library Routes Project's collection. For any readers who haven't heard of this it's a Wiki that brings together librarians' stories of how they got into the profession and what they've been up to since they joined it. The idea is that it is a useful resource for people who are considering a career in library and information work or for those who are planning the next step in their career.

Having read some of the other contributions I think my entry might need some editing or perhaps just this postscript. I may have given the impression that my career path was clearer than it actually was. I didn't go straight from university to teaching, then from there to being a college librarian. Dabbling with teaching after finishing your studies then moving into our arm of the education sector seems to be quite a common story. Although a lot of people have the self-knowledge to make the jump before or during their teaching course.

My CV isn't as tidy as I implied. After studying English Literature at Lancaster University I spent a couple of years mostly doing admin type jobs. These ranged from a few days temping to more interesting roles. For example I spent a year working on a digitization project for a planning department which in retrospect isn't a bad thing for a librarian to have on their CV. At the time however it was in no sense part of a plan.

Halfway through those two years I spent nearly six months doing voluntary work in Peru. Unsurprisingly this was much more interesting than admin work in London. I spent a few months teaching English in a Peruvian secondary school and a few months working on a conservation project in the rainforest. As a volunteer teacher I was able to stay with a local family. I loved my time in South America.

My positive memories of teaching in Peru probably nudged me towards doing my PGCE a year later but again implying a straight cause and effect would be me tidying up the reality to give you a neater story. I did slightly fall into that trap in my becoming a librarian post.

The Library Routes Project is very reassuring for those of us who feel that our CV seems to show a slightly roundabout journey. People who feel called to be librarians from childhood (or even young adulthood) seem to be the exception. Frankly I wanted to be a Ghostbuster when I was a child.

It seems to be common for librarians to have come via other kinds of role. The consensus seems to be that this gives people the chance to pick up skills that they can then use in a sector that can find uses for a bewildering array of talents.

It would be interesting to compare this to other professions though. It's a truism to say that people don't stick with the same organisation for life anymore. People move around much more during their working lives than they did in previous generations. Perhaps most professions would show a similar pattern? I'm sure it's pretty common for people to have tried different kinds of job before finding something that seems to fit. Is this truer of librarianship than of other fields? Perhaps we are claiming a general pattern as our own? I'm not saying that's definitely the case. I'm just throwing the question out there.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

CPD 23 - Thing 19 - Reflecting on things so far

Thoughts on reflection and the dangers of speed

Having fallen behind over the summer I now feel that I am doing quite a good job of catching up. I hope to have the remaining four things (including this one) completed by the end of the week. If I achieve that I will have finished CPD 23 a week behind the official schedule. I had set that timeframe as a personal goal (having given up on finishing on time) so I'm quietly pleased that I should be able to keep to it.

However before I start patting myself on the back for this I think I need to acknowledge the risks involved in taking the latter half of the scheme at a faster rate than the organisers intended. The scheme has an admirable focus on taking the time to reflect on our professional development.

Taking the things a week at a time has the advantage that you have the time to think about each thing in depth. Even if most of the time you are busy with other matters some corner of your mind can be contemplating this week's thing.

There was a danger that I was going to fall into a box ticking attitude towards the scheme. I think I have managed to avoid that. Obviously you can judge for yourselves by browsing my previous CPD 23 blog entries. In each case I have made a conscious effort to reflect on the implications of each thing for my own professional practice and development.

I hope that I have been successful at this. I have always been a reflective person. My previous career as a teacher encouraged me to develop a reflective attitude towards my work. More recently engaging in the Chartership process has focussed my mind on the importance of reflection as a tool for improving my own practice, engaging effectively with my profession and developing myself as an information professional. I hope that attitude can be seen in my CPD 23 posts.

Congratulations to everyone who did manage to finish CPD 23 on time. I salute you.

Thoughts on my favourite things

I won't rank my favourite things because I like them for different reasons so it wouldn't be a fair contest. Also I'm on a tight schedule here I want to do three more things before the weekend. So in purely chronological order here are my personal favourites. Some of them have already become an important part of my practice. Others are things that I intend to integrate into my working life or my personal professional development.

Things 1 - Blogging

This blog existed before the scheme and I did have plans to revitalize it as part of my attempts to be ready for Chartership. That said I am very grateful to CPD 23 for giving my blogging some structure and helping me to post reasonably regularly.

Don't worry though I am going to maintain momentum once I've finished the scheme. It has helped me to get into the habit of blogging about librarianship. That habit is now firmly integrated into my life.

Blogging regularly has helped me to increase my online professional presence. It looks very likely that this will be increasingly important in the future both in terms of my own career and in terms of trends within the profession.

Thing 2 - Reading Blogs

Reading and commenting on each others' blogs helped to create a real sense of community. I enjoyed the sense that CPD 23 was a community of people who wanted to develop new skills and share their experiences. I hope we manage to keep that going post-things.

Thing 4 - Current Awareness Tools - RSS Feeds

RSS feeds are one of those tools that make you wonder how you used to manage without them. My professional reading is so much more organised now I use Google Reader.

Thing 15 - Events

Events are great. Everyone should go to more training events and conferences if they get the chance. They are fantastic opportunities to learn new things, keep up to date with our fast moving profession and meet lots of friendly and interesting people. I knew that before thing 15 but I was happy to share this enthusiasm with the world.

That wasn't enough to gain 'events' a place as one of my favourite things though. The decisive factor was the prod in the direction of speaking at events or organising our own events. That really got me thinking. I have set speaking at an event as a personal goal and I am going to investigate organising events as well. So far I've just read some blogs about it but in November I hope to attend a training evening that promises 'top tips for event organisers'.

Thing 17 - Prezi

A controversial choice I know. Prezi doesn't get a place because I love it as a tool in its own right. It has good points but it also has flaws. I can see why some people hate it. This is a favourite because I am convinced that mastering it and using it is an opportunity to convince others that librarians know their stuff.

For educational librarians particularly this is a highly noticeable way of showing our colleagues outside the Library that we are trying new things. If we use this in research skills sessions or library inductions it will spread the message that librarians know all about the latest technology for teaching and learning.

Thing 18 - Screen Capture - Jing

The screen capture tool Jing is my newest favourite. I see it as an opportunity to make my sections of our VLE more informative and more interesting visually. Putting demonstrations on the VLE could help students to master a range of tasks from searching online journals to accessing e-books.

Final Thoughts

For someone who has admitted that he wants to cover several 'things' in the next few days I seem to have written quite a lot for thing 19. I think this is because it strikes me as an important one. Reflecting on how we can integrate the things into our lives is vital if we want to make sure that this process has a real and lasting impact on our professional development.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

CPD 23 - Thing 18 - Screen Capture and Pod Casting

Screen Capture Tools - Jing

More new tools to experiment with. I got quite excited when I saw that screen capture tools were coming up. I have been looking for ways to make my areas of our Moodle VLE more exciting. I'm responsible for making sure that the science, technology, engineering and maths areas of the learning resources section are useful and engaging for our students.

I have been considering using screen capture to show them how to use some of our online resources. Advice on searching them for example or even just simple things like how to access our ebooks. We do cover this is in our start of year library skills session but some students miss them and others don't remember everything we show them. To be fair we do try to cover quite a lot in a short session. We have written directions on the VLE but a lot of our students are very visual and seeing something demonstrated is helpful for everyone.

Jing seems like a very clever sceen capture system. I love how easy it is to share the finished product. I was a bit worried about that side of it before I tried it out for myself. It seems like it should be very easy to put some screen capture tutorials up on the VLE.

We've looked at some interesting tools during CPD 23 but this is one that I really can put to use straight away. The scheme has motivated me to explore something that I've been meaning to try for a while. Thank you CPD 23.

Pod Casting - Audacity

I'm less sure about pod casting. I know they can be very effective but my past experiences of actually trying to create them suggest that they are not as technically easy as their more enthusiastic supporters claim. It's reasonably easy to create a pod cast but if you want to create one that actually sounds good then you have to either really spend some time mastering the finer points of sound recording or you have to beg for help from technical support.

As pod casting tools go Audacity seems reasonably easy to use and being free is always a plus. To be honest though unlike screen capture technology this probably isn't something that I will be using in the very near future.

It is entirely possible, even likely that I will one day find myself in a situation where pod casting seems like the answer to a need. When that happens I will be glad that CPD 23 gave me another chance to explore the idea and helpfully pointed me towards a free piece of software to do it on.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

CPD 23 - Thing 17 - Prezi and Slideshare


Ah, the famous Prezi, the new all-singing, all-dancing alternative to poor old Power Point. I feel a bit sorry for Power Point. Everyone makes jokes about it and moans about it but actually it's not the tool's fault that people load it up with bullet points and then read them out or set up 43 slide presentations. Used properly Power Point does a perfectly good job of displaying information visually and thus making your talk more interesting and giving it some structure.

That said I am curious about Prezi. I have heard mixed reviews. Some people are very excited by the idea of a visual presentation that isn't tied down by a linear pattern. Prezi allows you to whiz around from idea to idea thus offering a better reflection of how people actually think. They see it as liberating us all from the tyranny of Power Point. On the other hand some people find that it is horribly time-consuming to set up and all that whizzing around makes them feel physically sick. It's hard to imagine two more different responses to the same piece of software.

The time-consuming argument is perhaps unfair. Using a system that you are unfamiliar with is bound to take longer than using one that you have known for years. People will get faster with practice.

However I think the time factor will stop teachers and lecturers from being eager to embrace this new tool. I hate to sound sneaky but I think this is an opportunity for librarians in educational institutions. Mastering Prezi and using it in inductions or research skills sessions will make us look ahead of the curve. I know it isn't really the latest thing anymore but using Prezi rather than Power Point would be a very noticeable way of highlighting the fact that we are experimenting with new digital tools. Spreading the message that librarians are experts on all the latest educational software must be a good thing. You could even see it as an example of advocacy as discussed in the previous 'thing'.

My own experiments with Prezi suggest that it will take me a while to feel completely comfortable with it. It seems like something that you have to spend some time playing around with before you unleash it on an audience. I want to impress people without making them sick or getting myself hopelessly lost. Once I've got the hang of Prezi it will be useful to have the power to create presentations that look more technically impressive than those created on the much maligned but perhaps genuinely overused Power Point.


Did someone at CPD 23 share my sense that Power Point gets a bad press? That seems like a plausible reason to pair Prezi with Slideshare. This is sort of a social network for people who use Power Points, a flikr for Power Point presentations. If you want to see examples of really effective or creative use of the software than this is the place to go.

I am very familiar with Slideshare because I used it in my teaching career. I uploaded my favourite Power Points onto the site in the hope that other teachers might find them useful. I'm not saying that any of them were particularly mind blowing but I'm a firm believer in sharing resources to spread good ideas and to stop us all going crazy. I also used it to find inspiration or resources for my own lessons. That is part of the spirit of Slideshare. It's a place for spreading good ideas and sharing best practice. It would be great if we all started to use it to share library and information literacy presentations.

The other useful aspect of Slideshare is that you can use it to learn about all kinds of interesting topics. Have a browse. You will be very surprised what people make presentations about.

I guess we might need something similar for Prezi soon. There's a project for someone. Unless that already exists somewhere?


Interesting counterargument to my "hey give Power Point a break" naivety.
Power Point is Evil from Wired Magazine.

Monday, 10 October 2011

CPD 23 - Thing 16 - Advocacy

We are living in interesting times. I've started my library career in the middle of an economic and political storm. Global economic crisis, a government that's decided cutting public spending is the solution, tight budgets everywhere etc. In the middle of the storm public libraries have become a symbol of what we stand to lose if we focus entirely on balancing budgets.

You all know all this. Perhaps that has been my problem with advocacy in terms of taking part in the public debate. I'm not sure what I have to say that isn't already being said. But then perhaps I'm just looking for an excuse because I can't claim to have played much of a part in the great library survival debate.

Thing 16 asks us to think about what we are doing to convince people that libraries deserve their support. All kinds of libraries obviously.

At the CoFHE Conference this summer one of the speakers showed us a map of the country with all the library closures marked on in it. It was very similar to this library closure map from the nice people at Voices for Libraries. It is a scary sight. We can't underestimate the scale of the crisis.

On the other hand it is reassuring to see all the people who come together when local libraries are threatened. It is a cause that unites people from across any community. There is a reason why critics of the cuts like to use libraries as their favourite example.

The situation with college libraries is slightly different to the crisis facing public libraries. Barring the fallout of mergers and other reorganisations most college libraries aren't living under the threat of actual extinction. Budgets are very tight right across the public sector though. Libraries that are part of educational institutions need to justify their place within the organisation. We need to show that the resources spent on supporting our service have a real impact on students' learning and attainment. Like all libraries we need to show that we make a difference to the lives of our users. We also need to show that non-users are missing out.

My job title is "Liaison Librarian". The CPD post for thing 16 considers the possibility that advocacy will soon appear on all library job descriptions. Advocacy is already part of my job description. I'm a Liaison Librarian because I liaise with the teaching staff within the subject areas that I support. It's my job to show them how much we can do to help them and their students. I have to be an advocate for our service. It is a central part of my role at the College.

We all advocate just by doing our jobs. Every happy library user is a potentially a voice raised in support of your service if those storm clouds come too close.

Should I be doing more? Probably. Publication is definitely a possible route but I should look into other options. It's not just about my career a world with fewer libraries is a world with less space for thought, fewer dreams and less hope.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

CPD 23 - Thing 15 - Events

Thing 15 involves thinking about training events in terms of attending them, speaking at them and organising them.

I've got a lot out of attending training events in this my first year of librarianship. I particularly enjoyed the CoFHE Conference. That weekend away in Wrexham was genuinely inspiring and it had a very real impact on my professional practice. Shortly after I got back I posted a quite detailed report on the various different sessions that I attended so I won't go into that kind of detail here. If you are interested please have a look. I hope that my report will convince you that conferences are very worthwhile.

The downside is that they require a large commitment in terms of time and money (your own or your employer's limited, probably being squeezed at the moment, training budget). Go to a conference if you get the chance but we also need to recognise the value of smaller scale training events.

I strongly recommend teachmeets. These have been springing up all over the place recently so it shouldn't be too hard to find one near you. They involve people getting together to talk about ideas for teaching information literacy and such like. Attendees prepare brief talks about an aspect of their own teaching practice which they want to share with others.

If you can't find a teachmeet near you then this might be a good kind of session to organise yourself. If I was going to take the plunge into organising something I think I would try to set up a teachmeet. I like the practical emphasis on discussing ideas that people have been using in their own libraries. The informal, people sharing ideas style means that it would be cheaper and hopefully less stressful than organising a more traditional event.

Having said that I imagine you have to do some arm-twisting to make sure that enough of the attendees are prepared to present. That might get stressful. The success of your event would be very reliant on the enthusiasm of others. Audience led events probably require more behind the scenes organisation than the philosophy implies.

I think I'd be good at sorting out the refreshments though. Remembering to bring cake is one of my areas of expertise. People might be in trouble if they don't like chocolate but that's a very small percentage of any group.

Attending the CofHe LASEC information literacy training day and teachmeet gave me lots of new ideas. I'm still drawing on that event for inspiration when planning my library skills sessions. Our new students should be very grateful to the organisers and the presenters for helping to make my sessions more exciting. Read my blog entry about the day if you want to know more. That entry also links to relevant blog entries by the organisers. Maybe you can pick up some tips for teaching or organising your own event?

I have yet to speak at an event. It is something that I would be interested in doing in the future. Actually I would even say that it is a goal for me. I would like to present something at a conference (or perhaps a smaller event). I'm a confident public speaker. It's often much less scary than trying to make small talk with a stranger. No? Maybe I've revealed too much. Still you do have a detailed plan for what you're going to say and you have the opportunity to practice until you're happy with it. Public speaking in and of itself isn't a problem.

My issue would be that I'm not completely sure what I would talk about. Still nobody's asking me to talk at a conference tomorrow so I've got time to think about it. I'm sure if I spent some time brainstorming ideas I would be able to come up with something halfway coherent, useful and hopefully vaguely interesting.

Training events are amazing opportunities to learn new things, to meet people and to share ideas. We should all go to more. By extension more of us should be brave enough to speak at them or even to try organising them. Watch this space because if I find the inspiration and the opportunity to do either of the latter then you will read it here first.

Please feel free to let me know about any events that you are organising.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

CPD 23 - Thing 14 - Reference Management Systems

Zoetero, Mendelay, Citeulike

A good reference management system is one of those tools that put you in danger of coming across as insufferably smug when talking to people who aren't using them. I know this because back in my student days I wasn't an early adopter of this technology. That was foolish of me because we had free access to Endnote so there was no excuse. Once I got into the swing of things I learnt to love Endnote. Who doesn't love technology which genuinely saves you time and makes your life easier?

Thing 13 asked us to look at two free reference management systems, Zoetero and Mendelay. We were also encouraged to try Citeulike, a tool which is primarily designed for sharing articles. Although there is an overlap it really performs a different function to the other two systems.

I tried all three tools but I focussed on Mendelay because it seemed like the most relevant. I use Firefox at home so Zoetero would work for me personally but its browser compatibility issues would make it harder to recommend it to students.

Mendelay compares well to Endnote particularly bearing in mind that it is free and the latter is a commercial product.

· It performs the essential functions of a reference management system so it would save students time and make their lives easier.

· It would also almost guarantee that their references were correctly set out. This isn't always the case when they do their references by hand.

· It is easy to use. Give yourself time to explore it but once you've had a look round it will all make sense.

· The "watched folder" feature is a really nice touch. It means that Mendelay can be used to tidy your research up if you've allowed it to get a little messy.

Areas for improvement

· Why does everything have to be a download? Very few workplaces will let you download anything without begging. I don't know about other institutions but at my own place students wouldn't be able to download this onto a college computer. There's definitely a gap in the market for a web-based, free, reference management system. Unless anyone knows of one?

· It's easy to use once you've spent some time playing with it. There might be space to make it a bit more intuitive though. I'm picturing a slightly panicked student trying to use it at the last minute.

Reference management systems are genuinely a great idea. I'm happy to have two new free systems that I can recommend to students. At the moment I'm particularly pleased with Mendelay but I will look at Zoetero in more detail in the future.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Cpd 23 - Thing 13 - Google Docs, Wikis and Dropbox

Spot the connection? The thread that ties these three tools together is that they are all used for collaborative working. They allow people to share documents and perhaps more importantly to work on the same document.

Google docs and wikis are both old friends. I haven't used google docs recently but it was a very useful during my Masters course. Using google docs allowed us to work on a single document from our own homes. This made one particular group project much easier.

In the past I have contributed to wikis about teaching and about career development. I've also asked students to create a wiki as a class project. They are an easy to use tool and they can be good fun. As other participants have commented they aren't really something that most people would integrate into their daily working lives but that isn't really their function. Their strength is allowing groups to share their collective knowledge, experiences or learning.

Dropbox on the other hand is a new tool for me. Is it going to become a new friend? Well, I hope so. It looks like it could be very useful. The downside is that I'm not sure I'm going to be able to download it at work. Even if I can't it is still good to know about tools like this. They might prove useful in the future. Also as a college librarian I like to be able to talk to students about the different tools that might help them with their studies.

Tools like these have the power to make collaborative work much easier.