Saturday, 30 November 2013

Library Camp 2013

Yet again another amazing experience at Library Camp. This is the third national Library Camp that I have attended and each time I have come home full of enthusiasm and hope for the profession, re-energised and glad to be a librarian. Each time is different, with people coming up with a huge variety of subjects to discuss. This morning the first session started with two children's stories and we swapped suggestions for good stories to read aloud at story-times. We talked about using picture books to help older but less secure readers to enjoy and practice their reading skills. We also thought about the stories that help children with emotional literacy. It was a session that could have gone on for hours.

I was facilitating the next one, and I wanted to publicise that open access repositories are a source of available information and data that anyone can read and use. As it turned out the people who came to the session were well aware of repositories and it turned into an interesting and illuminating discussion about getting the information onto repositories in the first place and the problems associated with young researchers wanting to make their work open, but there eventually being and establishment barrier that prevents it happening.

Lunch was great, provided mainly by the un-delegates (well, if it and un-conference than we must be un-delegates!) This year, "Cake camp" was accompanied by "Snack camp" , with savory items. I took along some home baked Pizza. I think that the concept of pizza always tasting better the morning after must be totally true. I baked the Pizza last night and by the time I got to the snack table, it had all vanished! After lunch I attended a session about digitisation because I wanted to find out more about the process and how hard or easy it is. Once again we had an in-depth conversation not merely about the process, but the consequences of putting work and images on line, and the problems of machines trying to convert characters into text.

I then diverted slightly by going to the session about the future of Cilip, and managed to say a lot of stuff, which I thought was thought provoking and interesting but seemed to give the impression that I had a negative attitude. Maybe I should have kept quiet. One phrase stayed with me, from one of the other un-delegates: "Industry Standard", and I think that Cilip as a relatively young incarnation of two older old organisations, is still trying to work out the clear cut, modern, professional weight that it should have. Finally, I went to the last session to listen, and find out about what open source software there is that can deal with library stuff, and learnt about various programmes, software and devises. There is also a rather wonderful device called Library box, which is like a portable server which you can load up with all sorts of wonderful e-documents and take it around with you for other people to access, like WiFi.

I do have two regrets, once again there were clashes of sessions going on, especially at the same time as I was doing mine, and I missed some topics that I would have loved to have attended. The other was that this year's Library Camp was in the brand new shiney Library of Birmingham, and I was so intent on the sessions and networking that I didn't get a chance to have a good look around it, or take any photos. I am a big fan of Library Camp, and the Un-conference style, it really demonstrates the intelligence, enthusiasm and range of people who work in all sorts of library sectors. Can I book for Library Camp 2014 now?          

Thursday, 14 November 2013

A really enjoyable lecture

Perhaps it is rather narcissistical of me to title this blog as a really enjoyable lecture, because the lecture that I writing about is the one that I have just given to final year graduates at Loughborough University. This has been the third time that I have given the lecture, about what public library staff do to enhance literacy, it seems to have become my annual contribution to the academic life in Loughborough. So what made it so enjoyable this time? I think it was the group of students who were so interested and responsive. It also gave me a chance to remember all the things I found out and learnt by doing the PhD. I have also looked up some new bits of research, just to make sure that I am giving out up to date information. I found the following two articles:

Understanding oral reading fluency among adults with low literacy: Dominance analysis of contributing component skills
Daryl F. Mellard, Jason L. Anthony, and Kari L. Woods

Inside the Letterbox: How Literacy Transforms the Human Brain
Stanislas Dehaene, Ph.D.

The Mellard, Antony and Woods article gives a nice summary of the skills needed to become a fluent reader and the Dehaene article is a very good account of what the brain does when you learn to read.

So any of the nice students have traced this blog, here is the link that I told you about and another one as well. and thank-you, I had a lovely afternoon. 

So far at Eduwiki 2013

Here I am in Cardiff bay at this year's Eduwiki conference, meeting up with people I know and making some new friends and interesting contacts. Wikimedia UK (or at least the Wikipedia in Education part of it) have some long term goals, such as acquiring more student societies, and getting more HE teachers to use Wikipedia to teach academic writing skills. Martin Poulter made a quotable quote by saying that Wikipedia is "a chance to pop open the bonnet of knowledge". It is a way that you can see the workings of the knowledge process, and some of the speakers today have shown how that process happens.  For example,  Humphrey Southall uses Wikipedia for teaching geography to first year students by making  stub articles better on an English village better. Students are first given a strict set of criteria to choose an article to improve; a set of websites that can be used, for example on place names; government statistics and the Doomsday book. Interpreting that information can become a good  exercise in statistical comprehension. Students are encouraged to put their article up on-line for the Wikipedia community to comment and contribute, and this also gives the lecturer an unique opportunity to see the students working not only through their own creation but also how they deal with the Wikipedia community. 

Students found that the Wikipedia editor comments were much more outspoken to those of their tutors, and they discovered how to deal with the stress of working in public.Humphrey wondered about the general benefits for Wikipedia and said that at least for the common reader there is now a standard set of good articles, but asked the question: is it good for the Wikipedia community? because it did cause a lot of work for some editors. Wikipedia editing is also being taught to students in France and Australia.  

Jean Frederic Berthelot spoke about working with PhD students in Lille as part of a wider post graduate programme with other French universities. All their PhD students need to do certain number of seminars and courses, and learning the use and editing or Wikipedia is one of them. The students create an account and add a banner to their userpage explaining that they are part of this course. The course teachers comment about the students' work via Google docs to keep them private and give students a skype call halfway through the course to encourage its completion. So far the outcome of the course has been lots of edits, but it seems not to have retained any of them as editors.

These examples make me think that Wikipedia has become such a ubiquitous and everyday resource that students need to understand not only how to search  the articles, but to know how to edit and write an article.  Perhaps the aim of the exercise should not be to get more Wikipedia Editors, or to improve and increase article, because those are short term goals. Training students to correctly edit Wikipedia gives them the discrimination to be informed users of the encyclopedia able to appreciate the research that goes with a good article and the ability to realise when an article is not good. It is just like learning how to write a report, or an essay, or presentation. you may learn how to write an essay at school or university, but not need to write one ever again once, but you will have learn how to structure a narrative which is a transferable skill. Similarly, students may not write a Wikipedia article again, but will know how to write a concise, unbiased summary a valuable skill  in many situations.