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Monday 28 September 2009

Rehearsing the unplannable

After my post about planning the LIANZA 2009 un-workshop I'll be facilitating, I met with Erin Kimber, who's going to be chairing the session, and we talked and brainstormed some more. She gave me some really great ideas including one that will probably be obvious to people who've actually been to unconferences: that, instead of dividing the time up among the topics, I should divide up the space so there can be three simultaneous conversations going on.

So this afternoon I ran a practice session at my workplace and that's how we did it. We got just enough people (about a dozen) to make this viable. I started off by going over the 'groundrules' and explaining where I was coming from and what we were going to do, except I babbled a bit so that wasn't entirely clear. Lesson learned: I need to write a script. Word-for-word scripts aren't for everyone - they can make you sound like a robot sometimes - but I know how to write in speaking-language, and can memorise sufficiently well, and the alternative for me is to babble for twice the time with half the sense.

We did introductions, but even with only 12 people it took too long. So far apparently 86 people have registered interest in the session itself (I deliberately didn't put an upper limit on numbers. 86, or 100, or whoever turns up, sounds like <gulp>, but if 86 people are interested then it'd suck to turn away 56 of them. Besides, I think the format really is that flexible) so I'll go with a kind of "Mexican Wave" of first names, as a warm-up, instead -- which gives me the opportunity to add on a few more Mexican Waves of increasingly challenging questions.

The "50 Reasons" exercise worked okay but probably won't scale up without me providing more guidance - I'm thinking of a variation on Mitch Ditkoff's suggestion, of answering each excuse with a question: in this case eg "I don't have the authority" -> "Who does have the authority?"

We divided into three topics, with a spare table in case of break-out topics. With only 12 people, one of the groups dissolved about halfway through; with 86, we'll probably need 10+ topics to start with.

It wasn't always easy to follow the "keep it positive" rule, so I'll focus on that more in the warm-ups. Also in the real thing I'll be wandering around instead of being a part of any group, so I can intercede and help encourage turning problems into questions.

Other than the one group dissolving and splitting among the other two, there wasn't any movement between topics. This isn't deadly because there's only a short time anyway and people might well want to stick with a single topic -- also it might partly have been because the groups were so small -- but someone suggested it'd be good to remind people of the opportunity by blowing a whistle (or, less martially, ringing a bell) every ten minutes.

I ended by passing around a sign-up sheet for the mailing list (again, with 86 people, this will be too time-consuming -- I'll go instead with a box for people to put in their email addresses if interested) and then a very brief wrap-up. People suggested it'd be good to have a takeaway, eg come back to the larger group at the end with a bullet-point list of tips - they also pointed out that having "Come up with some bullet-point tips" as a goal would help keep conversation on track. So I'll do this in the conference session too.

So that's where I am at the moment. Having that kind of dress rehearsal was 1000% value for money, and has got me even more excited about the conference session itself in two weeks.

Friday 25 September 2009

Something you mightn't know about Google Reader Shared items

You probably know that Google Reader has a "Share" option which puts a blog post into your own "Shared" feed so friends who subscribe to that can see what you've been reading.

And you probably know that recently they added a "Share with note" option that lets you... well, add a note when you share it so your friends can see what you think about what you've been reading.

But what you mightn't know is that if you select both "Share" and "Share with note" it goes into your shared feed twice (once with and once without the note). This is a bit stupid, but there you are. To stop it happening just don't select "Share"; selecting "Share with note" all by itself is sufficient.

Links of interest 25/9/09

LibLime, an organisation which sells support to the New Zealand-developed open-source library system Koha, has recently announced changes to their practices that are technically legal but many feel don't abide by the spirit of the open-source license. Library Journal has a basic summary of events with links to key discussions.

A libarian gets a marriage proposal on Ask a Librarian.

Customer service
Being at the point of need discusses placing screencasts, chat widgets, and other tutorials in the catalogue, subject guides, and databases.

Chalk notes as a valid communication format is a library manager's blogpost about her response to chalk-on-pavement comments about the library. Her follow-up on chalk notes addresses the issue of communication within the library about public responses like this.

Tracking ILL Requests is a "wouldn't it be neat if" post about providing more information on ILL requests to users.

The APA has an APA Style Blog with all sorts of handy tips.

10 free Google Custom Search Engines for librarians

5 sites with free video lectures from top colleges

Wednesday 16 September 2009

In praise of the Aotearoa People's Network Kaharoa

A few weeks ago I went on holiday with my family, a trip which involved two days driving to our destination. Somewhere in the middle of the second day driving we stopped in a place called Huntly, which was small enough that I'd never heard of it before, to visit a pharmacy. And I noticed we were parked outside the library, and so I said to myself, "Self, I wonder if Huntly Library has access to the Aotearoa People's Network?" And I opened my laptop, and lo, it did.

So I used it to tell a bunch of friends that I had random access to the internet, and then we drove away again. Not very *useful* to me, in that particular instance - but still very high on the coolness scale.

More usefully, when we reached our destination it turned out to be just up the road from Paihia Library so every time we got the haven't-been-on-the-internet-for-hours jitters we could go and get a free fix.

The APNK (also on Twitter) is the kind of thing that's so cool it's hard to comprehend how cool it is. When I first heard about it my mind skittered off into wondering what the catch was. (There's no catch.) When I next heard about it in a conference presentation (which I liveblogged - scroll 3/4 of the way down to 11:33am), I was blown away. Every now and then since, on my standing Twitter search alert for {"library" in New Zealand}, I see quotes like "I'm in library using free Internet." or "In Taumarunui today using free network connection in the library, this is a great service for the area ..." So being able to use it myself was just fantastic.

Monday 14 September 2009

Links of interest 14/9/09

The National Library of China is celebrating its centennial.

Nga Upoko Tukutuku korero is a new blog for discussion on Maori Subject Headings - each week they post a new question for readers to answer/comment on.

  • Promoting Library Reference Services to First-Year Undergraduate Students: What Works? (feature article in RUSQ this month) "describes a study that sought to answer three questions:
    1. What percentage of first-year undergraduate students are aware of reference services?
    2. What percentage of first-years seek information from reference librarians?
    3. Through which media are first-years comfortable communicating with reference librarians?"
    The summary on page 4 begins "At least in their first year of college, students respond most strongly to library reference service promotions given in person."
  • The Swiss Army Librarian posts a "Reference Question of the Week" describing the question and the way he found (or didn't find) an answer. His recent post on "What's in your ready ref?" is also fascinating.

  • The British Library Sound Archive has made over 23,000 sound recordings available for listening online (where copyright permits) to anyone anywhere in the world. This includes music (classical, popular, traditional), oral history, nature, and linguistic recordings.
  • The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre has released 1000 NZ classics in e-book format

There seems to be a revival in posts about Twitter recently - in the last couple of weeks I've come across:(And for those interested in New Zealand birds, Twitter accounts Kārearea (kakarapiti) and newzealandbirds.)

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Planning the unplannable

I'm attending LIANZA Conference 2009
At LIANZA 2009 I'm going to be facilitating an un-workshop kind of thing on "Getting people onside: making allies to support your innovation". It's an un-workshop thing because I've just been fumbling this stuff out on my own and, while I've got ideas, I bet other people have ideas too; and we've got 45 minutes because that's how the programming worked out. Some of the things I've been thinking about are:
  1. the boring-but-necessary ground rule stuff: keep it positive ("This situation is a nuisance but let's brainstorm ways to work with it" is all good); confidentiality (so we can talk about real life work situations despite New Zealand being a small country); and the twins: participate and respect (aka encourage others' participation).

  2. maybe a brief warm-up kind of things: brief introductions in small groups ("Hi, I'm Aroha and one innovation I've helped launch is ... OR one innovation I want to launch is ....") and/or brief discussion on how to combat the 50 reasons not to change.

    [I am so going to have to take along a timer....]

  3. actual meat - topic ideas I've had are:
    • working with organisational hierarchies; networking with other 'change agents'; getting support from people who don't at first seem interested/keen; figuring out what other people need and giving support to other people's innovations
    • communication - communication styles, miscommunications
    • miscellaneous tricks and ideas

    [I've been toying with the idea of starting with a quick poll on how long we should spend on each topic. It'd go like this: say there's 20 people in the room, I'll name a topic and the time we'll spend on that topic = the number of people who raise their hand multiplied by slightly less than 2. Very scientific and all.]

  4. perhaps most importantly: a piece of paper for people to write their email addresses on if interested in a mailing list or similar I plan to set up so we can keep talking about this stuff and supporting each other after conference.
I'm trying to balance the "Gotta make every one of those 45 minutes count" impulse and the "Come on, mate, it's an un-workshop" impulse and probably losing the spirit of both, I dunno. But/so hey: if you were attending a session like this (and particularly if you are attending this session!) what topics would you want to be included? how (if at all) would you want it organised? is group-work too traditional for an un-workshop, or the Fishbowl too intimidating given that the first LIANZA-hosted mini-unconference won't be held until after this un-workshop?

Oh, and what should I make sure I read (whether about 'getting people onside' or about unconference-stuff) before conference starts?