Posts Tagged ‘Advocacy’

Library Camp – Convincing Politicians that Libraries Improve Literacy

On Saturday 8th October I went to Birmingham for Library Camp – the “unconference” about libraries. It was ace. I met lots of people I know from Twitter for the first time in the flesh and I made lots of new friends.

One of the sessions I attended during the day was a session about how we can convince politicians that libraries improve literacy. Jennifer Yellin wrote a good report of the session here .

Having spent over a year campaigning to save libraries in Gloucestershire for Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries and working with advocacy group Voices for the Library, which was primarily set up to change the dialogue about public libraries as the positive stories and the views of librarians and library users rarely seemed to be given any consideration, I am exhausted. I have tried everything I can to advocate and campaign for libraries but I have felt rather isolated and ignored by the decision makers. I was hoping that this session would provide me with some more ideas, the magic statistics, the message that those in power could not possibly ignore.  This did not happen. What did happen was that it seemed to generally be agreed that there are the statistics, the evidence out there, but what there is not is someone with clout to deliver that message. It was down to us, the voters. I left dismayed because this has not been working for me.

I know colleagues who work in public libraries who are not allowed to promote the positive things that public libraries do as this may lead to increased usage, increased demand on resources, and would ultimately make the cutting of libraries a more uncomfortable option for the politicians. More people would notice when services stopped being provided.

The cuts in Gloucestershire have been hugely unpopular. We residents have done all we can to make politicians aware of this and the damaging impact their cuts will have. Just look at the Friends of Gloucestershire website and you can see that there was little else we could have done, yet we have been ignored. Voices for the Library have been working hard to change the national dialogue and have had some success, but as a geographically spread out group of volunteers, mostly with full time jobs and other commitments, there is only so much we can do. We do not have the clout needed.

I came away feeling like I and my fellow campaigners really are alone in this. A realisation that has been dawning on me for the last year but which really hit home in that session.

I had told myself I would not go to any sessions about public libraries as I have been consumed with campaigning and felt the need to go to cross sector sessions to broaden my horizons but I went to this one as I got the impression I would get the answers. I guess this was too much to expect though because if we had the answers we would not be in this situation in the first place.

Prezi and Me – CDG West Country AGM and International and Health Libraries Event

International and Health Libraries

So yesterday I went to the AGM of the West Country Branch of CILIP’s Career Development Group at which I had been invited to talk about my experience of carrying out research in Malawi at a rural primary school library

The first presentation was delivered by Jane Villa from North Bristol NHS trust who talked about her experience of running a workshop in Kenya at the University of Nairobi on “Evidence Based Health Care: the role of the librarian” as part of the Kenya Health Information Partnership Her talk reminded me of something that I had become aware of when I was researching for my dissertation -that the health library sector are very good at building international networks, collaborating and finding ways of improving access to health information in developing countries. Jane said that international partnerships “have become mainstream in the NHS” so it is easier to secure funding for projects (however she was unsure how long this will continue under a new government). I think libraries in other sectors should be seen as important to the development process and I think that those who do seek to provide such services have a lot  to learn from the health sector.   Ok, for obvious reasons it is vital that researchers, practitioners and academics in developing countries have access to the most recent and relevant health and scientific information, but opening up access to information for other audiences is also vital. For example, school libraries are ideally placed to fill the resource gap faced by schools in developing countries, but the networks, collaboration, partnerships and needs-based evaluation are lacking in this area. Maybe we should look to international health partnerships and to organisations such as International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications for ways to rectify this. I believe this is vital…after all, school is where the researchers, academics and practitioners of the future are!

Thanks to Jane for such an interesting and informative talk.

Here is my presentation which followed (navigate through the presentation with the arrows at the bottom. It is better to view Prezi “full screen”, so you can view the notes I have added, which can be accessed by clicking the title at the bottom of video, viewing it through VodPod and selecting “full screen” under the “more”menu on bottom right hand side )

One of the event organisers mentioned that someone had commented to her how surprising it was to get two speakers at one event talking about international libraries! why is this?? I think this really needs to be rectified and we need to get out there as we really do have so much to give and so much to learn. International librarianship should be included in every library school course in my opinion. So many people have said to me they would not have considered all of the complex elements involved in library aid and the role that librarians have to play in international development, if they hadn’t been in my talk. I love that at this and the AULIC event people have been genuinely interested in what I had to say and I hope that I have encouraged them to look a bit further afield and perhap even consider getting involved in similar projects themselves :D

Prezi, me and my attempt at changing my approach to presenting

As mentioned above I did a similar presentation for an AULIC event in June which I didn’t feel went so well so for this one I decided to change my approach. Things I wanted to change:

1) Props: Despite knowing my subject inside out and being very passionate about it I am terrified of going totally blank when a sea of faces are looking at me, forgetting the simplest of words and saying stupid things, so I use a full script as a crutch. It usually works for me as it is more of a comfort blanket than anything, I don’t read it straight off and I do look up and address the audience…but this time it FAILED. It distracted me, stemmed my flow and made my talk seem staggered. (note: this wasn’t helped by the fact some of my old tutors were in the audience, one of whom had been um..a little sceptical of my research ambitions…so I was VERY nervous) However, I noticed that when I took questions at the end of my presentation I came alive..my thoughts, opinions and knowledge flowed. All the nerves disappeared and the audience responded positively.  So I decided NOTE FREE might be the way to go. I CAN DO IT, Go JoBo!!!…Eeeek!

B) Visual Tools: It was a requirement of my MSc course in library and information studies that we were assessed in controlled conditions once for each module as well as submitting one piece of written work. One of the few ways this could be done was by presentation, so over two years my cohorts and I presented almost to death! As a result I have become a bit tired of Powerpoint and almost compile them mechanically, so I decided it was time for a change and looked for other options. There has been a lot of talk on Twitter about Prezi and having seen some examples of great looking presentations on their website I decided to give it a go.

Prezi – my trials and tribulations

A lot of people I know have mentioned that they have been considering using Prezi themselves so I thought it might be useful to share my experiences. Judging by comments from my Twitter network people either seem to love Prezi or are a bit apprehensible to say the least. There is the danger that it can make an audience seasick as the presenter whizzes them around the material doing loop-the-loops and whirl-mcswirls. I looked at examples on Prezi of other Prezi presentations and established that there were some REALLY BAD examples and some REALLY GOOD ones like this one and this one . It became clear that with the best ones the authors had thought really carefully on the placement of the material within the presentation and the path that you took the audience through. The bad ones seem to get a bit carried away with the whizzy things Prezi can do, forgetting about the original point of doing a presentation. The most important this to remember is that  THE OLD RULES OF PRESENTING STILL APPLY. It has to be clear, consistent and follow a coherent path.  DO NOT use functions just for the sake of it. I remember the early days of Powerpoint when folk got a little carried away with flashing font etc …then we all agreed that SIMPLE IS BEST…this still applies.

Compiling a Prezi – my tips and thoughts

  • Do NOT attempt to do it on a laptop without a mouse or Prezi misbehaves and shoots all over the place – I nearly launched my laptop out of the window on many occasions. It was much easier on a PC with a mouse. However, I have to say although I found Prezi infuriating to use but I am happy with the result. (it is embedded here as you can see and any thoughts would be most welcome – feel free to comment)
  • Prezi has no spell check…and for someone who cannot spell (me!) that can be a problem…I hope there are no spelling mistakes in my presentation.
  • I found it really useful to organise my thoughts in Prezi. It is so easy to move ideas around and delete/add to them that I used it initially as a mind-mapping tool in a way I couldn’t with Powerpoint. I think this really helped me to improve the flow and make my points more concise (and the end result had barely a bullet point in sight!!!) It made it more dynamic and I really had to think about what I wanted to say and how…something that had become mechanical when compiling a Powerpoint.
  • WARNING – I found Prezi extremely  temperamental.  Sometimes it would upload jpg images, sometimes it wouldn’t (on one occasion it took me two hours to persuade it too and I never did figure out why it suddenly decided to play nice!) I also tried to add a YouTube video to it –  a potentially useful function but in practice the video looked really pixelated and a bit rubbish when viewed through Prezi. I tried to address this by changing the format of the original video file on Zamzar.com to a flv file after some helpful advise from a lovely Twitter friend…only to be told by Prezi the file had become to big for it to be uploaded…grrrr! I managed to do it in the end by converting the YouTube video to flv on Zamzar, the result was a smaller flv file that uploaded and looked better. Please don’t ask me why…I have NO idea!  Perhaps someone wiser than me could explain???
  • When I tried to download the final presentation (as advised by Prezi with really limited instructions) on to my computer to take as a back up (as all super prepared presenters should) I has so many problems. It would not download on my computer so I had to race into work and try on two different computers. It finally downloaded as a Zip file that had so many components in it I had no idea how to find the actual presentation! (again, perhaps someone could enlighten me on this?) so I had to go without a back up and access it online. I had been considering taking a Powerpoint back up with me in case of technical failure but I had spent so long faffing with Prezi and coaxing it to do what I wanted that I didn’t have time…and quite frankly if Prezi was that great I shouldn’t need a back up using another programme…the whole point was to be Powerpoint free! The upside to this was that in normal circumstances I would have gone to the event feeling terrified that Prezi would fail but, because I felt free from Powerpoint and the script, and because I had spent so long working on my presentation, I thought “what the hey..if all else fails? I know my subject. I know what I want to say. I will just talk sans visual aids!!” Ooooh! HELLO new confidence and embracing risky strategies! :)
  • The non-pay version of Prezi insists that your presentations be publicly available. I don’t mind this but it did make me really think about what details I should include. I normally put all my contact details on my presentations but I didn’t with this one.I left on my name and where I work as people could easily find this anyway but I still do not know if I did the right thing. My presentation was for my audience but the tool I was using was making me limit the information I would normally have given them. This has led me to question whether this defeated the whole point?
  • Prezi is not so easy to print out for people to make notes on but it is easy for people to access online without you having to post it anywhere that might require passwords etc and you can embed it in your blog which also serves to draw traffic to your blog and I hope to encourage feedback.
  • Embedding the presentation in a wordpress.com hosted blog is not straightforward. After a lot of cursing I found (thanks to the same lovely Twitter friend mentioned above that I hear-by name Super Man) that the only way to do it was to sign up with VodPod and post it into my blog this way. I have been told it is easy to embed in wordpress.org and other blogs however.
  • Prezi advises that after the event you add comments into your presentation so it makes sense without the presenter. This I have duly done, but again, it took ages. The only option available is to put these comments into the presentation itself, which I think makes it look messy, unlike with notation in Powerpoint which can be at the bottom and subtle. Due to the restrictive nature of the templates I also could not find a note-type font similar to those demonstrated in Prezi’s guidelines so mine had to be red and bold to make it different from the rest of the text…..hardly ideal! I hope this does not cause to much confusion and annoyance to people looking at it. Let me know your thoughts? Maybe there is a better way of doing it but I could not figure it out…another usability issue!

If you are thinking of using Prezi then go for it but please make sure you have PLENTY of time and patience, consider whether it is appropriate for your audience and try not to make folk seasick. It has been suggested to me that the problems I encountered may have been because it takes a while to get used to using Prezi but I was working on it on and off for three weeks and in my opinion, if after this time I was still having problems with it, it is not user-friendly enough.

Conclusion

I think overall my presentation was a success. Without the shackles of a script my talk flowed and I was able to get back that old enthusiasm. I had spent so long organising my ideas and compiling my Prezi that I really felt like I knew what I what I wanted to say. Driving the Prezi was fine and I only lost my place once because I pressed the wrong button. I am yet to receive formal feedback from my audience but I got good verbal feedback from the people I did speak to. A really interesting discussion was had at the end of my presentation which indicated that I had succeeded in engaging my audience. This new approach really worked for me. I am in two minds as to whether I will use Prezi again and I await feedback from my audience and readers to help me decide.

Oh, I also learnt that it is probably is not a good idea to tweet your Prezi technical dramas when the person who invited you to speak is following you on Twitter…they may have a heart attack – Sorry Lizz!

Any thoughts on any part of this blog post be it my presentation subject, Prezi or the art of presenting in general would be most welcomed :D

Thanks to the West Country branch of CILIP’s Career Development Group for inviting me to speak. I had a lovely day and met some lovely people and thanks to Southmead Hospital Library for welcoming us and for the fascinating tour at the end.

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Why I am excited at Paul Sturges being awarded an OBE for services to libraries in Britain and overseas

This is just a quick post to comment on the news that Paul Sturges has been awarded an OBE for services to libraries in Britain and overseas. Congratulations Mr Sturges!  

I carried out qualitative research in Malawi for my MSc dissertation and I cannot begin to describe how daunting this seemed before I set off. I would lie awake thinking “am I being overambitious,why didn’t I pick something easier?!!”  the panic set in many times….then lo! I discovered Sturges and Chimseu’s (1996) Qualitative Research in Information Studies: A Malawian Study. Education for Information 14 (2), pp. 117-127.  A paper written about a small-scale qualitative study that they carried out in Monkey Bay (completely by coincidence it was undertaken in the town right next to the rural village I was carrying out my research in) that told me my project WAS achievable and positively encouraged my approach.
 
The authors had observed that the quantitative approach dominated postgraduate research in information studies and that the qualitative approach, revealing the whys and hows, was lacking. They suggested that:

“it may tend to seem too (..) time-consuming an exercise for the more practical concerns of the majority of those interested in information studies. Thus the qualitative approach is probably more saleable to PhD students who have more time, and more need to show an impressive rationale for their methodological choices”

So the pair decided to undertake a MSc sized qualitative research project in Malawi

“with a subsidiary aim of testing the proposition that while qualitative research is not absolutely simple, and does place considerable demands on the researcher, it can produce valuable results in a way that is particularly swift and direct. Furthermore, it was intended to show that this could be done even in conditions that present inbuilt difficulties arising from cultural, linguistic, political and economic conditions”

which they duly did and found that

 “with good preparation, willingness to improvise, a determination to listen to what people say, and think about it carefully, then a rapid qualitative study can not only be effective, but much more rewarding than sitting waiting for responses to a postal questionnaire to arrive. Having tested a qualitative approach under difficult conditions, and found that it can indeed provide valuable research results, the authors feel able to offer to students and colleagues a wholehearted endorsement based on experience “

….and a few minutes after discovering this paper I had a team of cheerleaders in my head going “You can do it!! in fact you HAVE to do it!!”  and I very successfully did so . Sturges and Chimseu were right and I thank them for giving me the confidence to do it. In moments of panic I thought of this paper. This paper was all the more important to me as qualitative research on international librarianship, especially in MSc sized projects is thin on the ground so I welcomed all of the guidance I could get my little mits on!

This is award is really great news in a time when libraries, particularly public libraries are being scrutinised and challenged in the press and in parliament. I confess I do not know very much about all of this OBE business but it does suggest to me that someone important, somewhere thinks libraries and access to information is important and this is something we can really use to prove our worth – more needs to be made of it.

I am particularly pleased about the “overseas”  bit of the award. I am always going on to anyone who cares to listen that librarians have a massive role to play in international development and in the agendas of development organisations and that we should be banging their doors down…I hope they will take note of this recognition Sturges has received…..and seek out our expertise!

Sturges and Chimseu’s (1996) Qualitative Research in Information Studies: A Malawian Study. Education for Information 14 (2), pp. 117-127.

last nights Newsnight

So, my initial thoughts on last nights Newsnight “Do libraries have a Future” debate. Firstly where was CILIP and where were the librarians? It was Maragret Hodge and Alex Gibbons a “library campaigner” who took part in the discussion. Whilst it is great there are “library campaigners”, it seems bizarre to me that there was no sign of anyone from the professional body there to advocate libraries. Gibbons got some positive comments in there, for example, he thinks that libraries are more important now than ever but he also seemed to think that librarians stamp and issues books, stating that self-service machines should free up the librarians from this work to “get out and meet the public”. I feel like I am forever repeating to people “librarians do not just stamp and issue books all day” my work has been undone! 

Secondly, does Labour have some kind of deal with Starbucks?

A missed opportunity I say. What about all the other work libraires do beyond books?

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