Wednesday, 28 July 2010

LibraryThing : a continuing adventure

I've started using LibraryThing to catalogue my collection of polar travel books.  I discovered immediately how important it is to note ISBNs or publication dates as well as authors/titles before you start to add your books as there are numerous editions of some classic tales from the Heroic Age of Exploration.

I am not convinced that I will use LibraryThing to promote new books at the Centre of South Asian Studies. I operate as a half-man band and consequently rarely have time to keep up with new publications and cataloguing, yet alone creating a separate catalogue in LibraryThing to generate book covers regularly. I can imagine LibraryThing being used in libraries with more staff, as ISBNs could be added whilst staffing an enquiry desk.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010


Social networking for bookworms, by Aaron Rutkoff (Wall Street Journal, June 27th, 2006) succinctly outlines the history of LibraryThing and the roles played by its creator, software programmer, Mr Spalding and business partners,, who in 2006 bought a 40% share in the site.  It was the perfect introduction, which I followed with :
LibraryThing and the library catalog: adding collective intelligence to the OPAC,by John Wenzler (San Franciso State University Library) whose paper presented at a Workshop on Next Generation Libraries (September 7th, 2007) describes how libraries in the United States are using LibraryThing, including a helpful list of instructions for installation. 
I then looked at how Nuffield College Library and the Central Science Library are using LibraryThing but could not see any major advantages over our existing library catalogues.  Whilst the addition of a picture of a dust jacket might assist in locating a copy, the image does not show the spine, most commonly the only part of the cover visible on a crowded bookshelf and I failed to spot the linked library classmarks.  
However, I can imagine that pictures of dust-jackets/front covers would look good on a virtual display of new books, so look forward to learning how to do this next Thing.

Monday, 26 July 2010


Early morning reflections, Raudfjorden, June 2010 (Polar adventurer)
My 23 Things experience has been a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows.  The highs have included Creative Commons on Flickr and Delicious, the lows the new user names and passwords, Twitter and Yahoo's website.

I'm sure my skills and knowledge have improved, but not my memory for passwords!  Before embarking on 23 Things, I already contributed regularly to the SAALG blog, used RSS feeds from publishers such as Permanent Black, and to promote new acquisitions at the Centre,  and contributed to Doodle polls. Since June, I have tagged my bookmarks on Delicious, learnt more about Creative Commons licenses on Flickr, included photographs and a Slideshare presentation on my blog, have created an IGoogle page, complete with Google calendar and RSS feeds. I have found it useful having my RSS feeds in one place, but have not continued to use the Google calendar as I already have an excellent online calendar.  I plan to make most of my Delicious bookmarks public and add links to them on web pages I manage in each of my libraries.

On the whole I have found the method of learning useful, though at times I have needed more instructions, and could have saved time with more detailed examples to work through. I have probably become more competent but would not say confident - but that is a personality trait I have to live with!  My biggest bugbear has been the need to keep creating new user accounts and keeping track of all the new passwords and user names. I already had a huge number working in two places. 

How will I do things differently with the next 12 Things?  I will spend less time on each task.  I've averaged 2 hours per task, but Delicious has taken considerably longer (tagging hundreds of bookmarks on two PCs), and that's before I add and tag the bookmark/links I have created on my collections' web pages.  I also have hundreds more I have kept in email folders entitled Asian electronic resources, Australasian electronic resources etc, which I have been able to access easily from both PCs. Ideally, these too will also get added to Delicious.  Each time they have to be checked to ensure they still work and to determine tags. Since geographically I cover the whole world in my two library collections, this is no insignificant task!

May I recommend to the organisers of 23 Things (who have done such a splendid job in setting up the scheme in Cambridge), that a much longer period of time is set aside for this exercise next year? I was on holiday for 3 weeks in June and have never caught up.  I came back to huge backlogs of enquiries and work in each job (as expected), and simply have not had enough time to do the Things justice.  I hope I have concentrated on the Things I think will best help me manage my jobs, and understand my readers' needs, but time will tell...

The Thing I would recommend most to colleagues unfamiliar with it, is Doodle.  I have saved so much time (numerous emails) using it to organise meetings with colleagues from far-flung libraries and archives.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Bookmarking using Delicious

Humboldt penguin, photographed by Victius, 2009 (Flickr, Creative Commons)
I enjoyed looking through Emma Coonan's bookmarks on Delicious but found her Penguins tag rather misleading!  This is more my sort of penguin!  I like the way Emma has bundled tags - I can see I may wish to do this too.

My South Asia bookmarks on Delicious

Inspired by the use of Delicious at Stanford Green Library, my social bookmarking experience to date has been rewarding, bar having to join Yahoo, whose website is truly awful. (yes, yet another user name and password also involved). 

I successfully imported my bookmarks from my Firefox browser at the Centre of South Asian Studies into Delicous, tagged them all (I had several hundred, so this took some time), used the opportunity to check each of them, updating and deleting outdated ones and can now see these from my PC in the UL.  I decided to keep them all private for the time being but plan to make selections of them public (determined by tag) on web pages I manage during the summer.  When I have time (and this has been the biggest obstacle to me tackling the 23 Things so far), I plan to import my bookmarks from my browser at the UL and integrate these with my SAS bookmarks.  Some will simply duplicate existing ones, but many more will be unique to my UL/RCS work. I am hoping Delicious will spot the duplicates for me! Will it?

It will be extremely useful for me to be able to access all my bookmarks in one place.

I especially like the tag cloud produced and look forward to seeing how this will change when I add more geographical and Commonwealth links, and am hoping it might make a nice feature on my web pages.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

More thoughts on SlideShare and Flickr

I would recommend new users of SlideShare read the article posted by JISC Digital Media, Using SlideShare to share presentations.  It contains a useful  summary of the legal terms and conditions you agree to if you create a SlideShare account, and provides practical advice on best practice, using tags to enhance publicity and on privacy/setting permissions.  It also contains a useful link to Finding and using still images for use in presentations.  From this I located the following historic image, taken in Wellington, New Zealand in 1933, and made available on Flickr, with no known copyright restrictions, by the National Library of New Zealand 'on the Commons'.  It captures the scene at Pipitea wharf, where supplies were being loaded for the second Byrd Antarctic Expedition.
Pipitea wharf, Wellington, 1933
(National Library of New Zealand on the Commons)

Monday, 19 July 2010

Problem solved!

I doubt others will experience the problem embedding code I did, but in case you do..., the problem was that I had assumed that you could insert the code in a similar way to you insert a picture or insert a link.  I hadn't realised that you needed to move from the Compose screen to the Edit HTML screen and insert the code there.

2nd attempt at embedding


Georges Nijs (Flickr, Creative Commons)
This image of a large tabular iceberg was taken by Georges Nijs, and posted on Flickr with a creative commons licence.
I has hoped to embed the presentation by Dr Julian Paren in this post, but the only way I was able to publish it was directly from Slideshare to Blogger, as a separate post.   I would welcome concise advice as to how I could have achieved this as I have spent far too long pasting the embedded HTML code into my blog and failing, reading Slideshare Help screens etc. I was also prompted to create my own Slideshare account - which I did (yes, yet another password, licence agreement...).  Was this necessary to embed someone else's presentation into my blog?
Hopefully, by the time you read this you will have enjoyed viewing The World's last great wilderness (Antarctica) by Dr Julian Paren, Schools Liaison Officer, British Antarctic Survey.  Dr Paren gave this talk at the Royal Geographical Society, on 8th February 2001.
I hope to master the art of embedding presentations in my blog, and perhaps in future I will embed presentations from SAALG conferences into the SAALG blog.  Currently these are posted on the SAALG website
The University's Press Office embedded a YouTube presentation in their press release announcing the launch of the Centre of South Asian Studies' digitised film archive. The Centre's archivist, Dr Kevin Greenbank is interviewed with Film archivist Annamaria Motrescu. We have received very good feedback from the presentation.
I hope to be able to embed presentations into the Centre's Library web pages too, particularly some I have viewed relating to research skills, which may assist our MPhil students, plus the YouTube presentation on our cinefilms.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Flickr and Creative Commons licensing

Mike Thomson (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Timo Arnall (Flickr, Creative Commons)
I believe I shall find Flickr an extremely useful tool, and had not realised that you could search for reusable images under a Creative Commons licence without signing up and creating your own Flickr account. 

My memory of places and people is largely visual, with light and colour playing a very important part, so I have always valued paintings, maps and photographs very highly, and have enjoyed working in special collections where these records are highly sought after.

I located these two beautiful images of Longyearbyen on Flickr, searching for Creative-Commons licensed-content.  The top image of the colourful houses was captured by Mike Thomson;  the bottom image of wooden houses lit by the midnight sun was taken by Timo Arnall.

I am particularly excited about the possibilities of identifying images of unknown people and places in our special collections, as the Library of Congress have done so successfully.

Monday, 5 July 2010


Walrus, Poolepynten (Polar Adventurer, 2010)

How would you tag this image?  Would it be: Walrus, Poolepynten, Prins Karls Forland, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, northern marine mammals, Arctic wildlife, tusks, beach, or would you simply date it?  Obviously it depends on the level of your knowledge, interest and purpose.  

I found the essay by Clay Shirky, 'Ontology is Overrated' to be thought-provoking, and will take more interest in tags assigned to digital content.