Feb 142018

Do Australian academic libraries evaluate their learning projects often, in different ways and then act on it?

Today, 14 February 2018, I am presenting at a paper on the topic that I co-wrote with Karen Miller in Melbourne,  at the VALA2018 Libraries, Technology and the Future conference.

If you can’t be in the session, then you may like to watch the movie I made during one of the run-throughs with my slides: Incremental and iterative evaluation of student learning projects in academic libraries

You can find the peer-reviewed paper here:  Iterative and incremental evaluation works for software development, but can it be good for student learning initiatives in Australian academic libraries?

VALA is also making movies of each live presentation, which are being posted to the conference site quite quickly each day. Please have a look at the other presentations there. They’re quite yummy.

Jul 242017

Do you know a nice, stable, likely long-lived service that allows people to record audio online and then embed a player into another website?

HINT: Soundcloud may be the wrong answer. I want ANOTHER one…

“Nightmare” uploaded to Flickr by clement127 25 October 2014

Every tech lecturer’s nightmare.

That easy-to-use tech that helps students who may be a little unsure to make multimedia, that just requires mic input and the ability to press a big red button on a web interface, that reliable and well-funded tech, key tool for an assessment in your unit…

….you hear rumours that it laid off 40% of its staff (173 people) last week, that it can only guarantee funding for the next 50 days.  Of course, the founder of the service issues a denial of sorts (well, it actually only claims that it has funding for the next quarter…)…

Meanwhile, your unit outline, the contract with your students, needs to be published at midnight tonight.

I have looked for as stable, as large, as easy-to-use services as Soundcloud and really only come up with chirb.it and clyp.it , which I had not really heard of, do not seem to be used very widely and I am not sure are likely to be any more stable than Soundcloud.

I am settling on adding another step. A sensible step that students should be doing anyhow. Soundcloud allows users to download the audio file of something they create using the web interface rather than by file upload. I am just asking that they download their file when they create their piece and then (in the unlikely event of Soundcloud folding before marking has been returned) they upload a backup to the Internet Archive and add the URL to the place they submit on Blackboard …

All students should be well and truly able to do this, of course. BUT… part of what I try to do in my unit is offer the “lowest hanging fruit” where students who may be tech-nervous get to experience very easy interfaces to achieve things that they did not believe initially they were capable of. So, if they have to create multimedia in their job (which they probably will) they are confident that they will be able to work out any tool presented to them.

SO – If you know another service, or have a smarter way to solve the problem, less confronting for a tech novice, I would love to hear from you.


Jul 172017

Watching from afar this week the VALA Tech Boot Camp in Melbourne and the Radical Librarians Collective meeting in Glasgow, it was interesting to see sessions at both about data privacy and security. Have a look at the Twitter feeds for the hashtags #valatechcamp  and RadLib17 to see participants’ live tweeting.

I try to teach students about data security in my tech unit, but it is very difficult to know how in-depth the material should be.

On one hand, some of this is quite technical and many of my students will go on to become managers, rather than hands-on tech practitioners.

On the other hand, we deal in information. For others. With an ethic to protect, preserve and maintain access to records and archives.

I am not going to pretend that decision of WHAT to protect and preserve is totally apolitical. I do think that knowing that “unfortunate” and “uncomfortable” documents will be preserved and accessible to citizens decreases authoritarianism; and gives future generations opportunity to not repeat mistakes of previous ones.

To carry out the day-to-day activities of protection and preservation, librarians, records managers and archivists need to be aware of, and vocal about, information policy.  They need to understand digital security to do this.

For example, we need sufficient technical understanding to know why Teresa May’s recently-expressed desire to weaken cryptography of private messages on third party sites to allow access for law enforcement agencies  is an idea likely to ultimately decrease freedoms and cause greater opportunity for illegal activity. And why the rest of the world is laughing at our Australian Prime Minister today.

One of the points coming from the Radical Librarians meeting is that anyone who claims that they have “nothing to hide, thus nothing to fear” from measures that erode digital privacy, is probably occupying a privileged position. People in minority groups tend to be affected more by surveillance. This is one of the reasons I have my students answer a question about whether there are some groups of people who would particularly benefit from being shown how to use the TOR browser in a public library.

(Check out the extraordinary responses to Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s post on her personal Facebook page “lamenting war in general, on a day predetermined to be about lamenting specific wars”  (very nicely encapsulated in the linked article). If I had posted the same as Yassmin, probably if Malcolm Turnbull had posted the same, I do not think my or his digital footprint would be scrutinised in quite the same way, and certainly the real-life personal repercussions would not be the same ).

So … what are some of the basics that information professionals should know about? I do not cover all of these in my classes ( I do many). Some of these points were compiled from watching the tweetstreams of the two events earlier in the week.

1. Search engines.

2. Web-browsers.

  • Also track your usage, and pass this on to third parties. Use TOR browser instead and have this installed on machines available for public access.
  • At the very least, unless you have a good reason for your search history to be stored in your browser, use the Private mode for all web activity. (This does not stop the browser from sending information about who you are about other sites, or network administrators from knowing you are going there, but does stop the desktop software from creating a readable log that you have been there).

3. https:

  • Make sure that all your organisation’s websites, and products that your users access through third-party vendors, are using using transport layer security (They will have  https , instead of “http:” at the start of the URL).
  • I get students to look at Firesheep and advise what a library could do about to protect the privacy of users on their public wifi network if another user on the network is using something like this (A: Not much. Educate your users about going to http: sites on public networks)

4. Share knowledge with your community.

  • Consider hosting a Cryptoparty to help your community understand how to stay secure online. If you don’t know enough know to do this, learn.

5. Passwords.

  • If your product allows you to view passwords, unencrypted, in a field in your database, ask your vendors to alter this.
  • If your vendor’s response to a “lost password” request is to email the plain text password to a user (hello Springshare), instead of sending a reset link to a verified email address, ask them to change this.

6. Passwords 2.

  • Know how to create a secure password. Password management software (e.g. KeePassX ) can generate secure passwords and store passwords so you do not have to have “easy to remember” passwords, and can, crucially, have different passwords for each system you use.

7. Know system vulnerabilities and demand change.

8. Think first .

  • Don’t do dumb things that compromise your own or your users’ data security. Chris Cormack made this point wonderfully in his VALATechCamp presentation. Have a look at his slides about Securing your Library Management System from his VALATechCamp session, especially the last one.

You may also be interested in following up the Library Privacy Toolkit at the Library Freedom Project ….

… and keep an eye on what is coming out of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Australian-based Electronic Frontiers Australia .



Jul 102017

When people suggested the weekly #glamblogweekly posts, I wrote a very long post as my first one, which I have ended up chopping into a few posts. So, here’s my question for this week…

What I would love to see from others who are #glamblogweekly-ing (if you need to get the “what will I blog about” juices flowing 🙂 ) is a post outlining the things that they think they actually DO blog about, or want to blog about. What kind of blog has yours turned out to be? Is that what you would like it to be about, or would you like to write about other things too?

Writing about love. nicole. 2010. Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/nmporter/4949569655/

The thing I loved about reading the blogs that have been playing #blogjune in the last few years is the absolute width of interests shown. From librarian-style, to knitting, to what it’s like NOT being in a library any more, lots of professional tips, disciplinary conversations, film talk, casual flim-flam.

When I first started blogging, it took me about 6 months before I settled on a byline for the blog because I really did not know what I blogged about. Over the years, however, several themes have (probably to my surprise) very clearly emerged. One of the recent series seems to be “hints for university students about how to do better”.. not where I would have predicted I would be 🙂 So ….

This blog has turned out to be about:

  • Librarianship – what the discipline means, what we do, how we can do it better
  • Technologies used by librarians – hardware and software, with a bit of a focus on picking up what is lying around the garden and using it, rather than about expensive, purpose-built disciplinary tools
  • Initially about family life and managing work and family. Less now. My circumstances changed and my kids are older, so I am less comfortable sharing that aspect of my life.
  • Posts aimed at people just starting in the profession, including their care and maintenance 🙂 What should we be teaching? How do we promote a vibrant, caring, ethical profession that is well-resourced and continues to be useful?
  • Interesting projects and ideas from others in the profession
  • Sometimes my cat, in the past. I now have two new ones, just as freaky and inclined to snuggle inside people’s jumpers, so maybe more about them?
  • Events and activities I go to that are relevant to librarianship (conferences, courses, seminars … I seem to attend quite a few).
  • A few – gosh, that’s INTERESTING! posts, that are rather eclectic. (Recipes, attending non-library events, information policy, current affairs)

I am pretty happy with this mix. There is a lot more to me than appears in this blog, but having this focus on librarianship allows me to be quite targeted when I post. Makes it easier to know what to write, and I am comfy that people who read regularly are interested in the topic too.

So – over to others. When you started blogging, was it with a purpose to write a particular kind of post? Did you end up doing that? Have you been surprised at all by the mix of topics you ended up with?

Jul 032017

In my last post, I mentioned that I have used RSS feed readers to keep up with #blogjune in the past,  first Google Reader, then on its demise I used feedly . In the last couple of years, though, I just added a column to my Tweetdeck app and displayed any post for the #blogjune hashtag.

The “slurp ’em up via Twitter” method, of course, presumes that everyone who was blogging for #blogjune was tweeting out a link to the post, with the right hashtag.

For the Blogging each Monday activity, I think we are going with #glamblogweekly.

Most #blogjune people were auto-tweeting their post URL and the hashtag , but just in case you are unsure how to do this, here are a few ways:

  1. If you are weird and retro old-skool like me, you use something really, really old. From day one I set up my RSS feed through Feedburner (back when it was its own company, not just a small outpost of Google). The logic was that if I want to change the platform for my blog then everyone would still be subscribed using the same RSS feed. Was very useful when I moved from Blogger to self-hosted WordPress .  Anyhow, Feedburner has an option to “publicise” and I have this set up to auto-post to Twitter and to add whatever category I have assigned the post. Interestingly, when I went in search of more information to provide links, it revealed that the service shutdown on 3 December 2012, so I seem to be using some beyond-the-grave functionality to connect to Twitter… Spooky
  2. Self-hosted WordPress has an inbuilt “Share” function under the “Settings” menu (which I think is related to the Jetpack plugin being activated).
  3. If using a hosted blog at WordPress.com there is a Publicize function to allow you to automatically share your posts and add a hashtag on Twitter.
  4. Y0u could use dlvr.it 
  5. You could use If This Then That 

The image used in this post shows the first few IFTTT applets for WordPress.com. There are hundreds and hundreds. My “to do” list for the last 3?? years has included “play more with IFTTT”, so I am hoping to do this in the next few months and maybe share what I find as a Monday post.


Jul 022017

Okay, so we seem to have started A Thing here…

Moral: Be careful about the throwaway comments you make on Twitter.

The way Con tells it, it was me. She enabled. So did snail and Kate and Andrew and  Sally

Anyhow, it looks like a bunch of us are committing to blogging once a week, publishing some time on Monday.This timeline lets us write a post any time we are moved to, but then just schedule it to go out on Monday.

Hashtag is yet to be determined.  I have used RSS feed readers to keep up with #blogjune in the past,  first Google Reader, then on its demise I used feedly . In the last couple of years, though, I just added a column to my Tweetdeck app and displayed any post for the #blogjune hashtag. (I started writing here about how to set up your blog to post automatically to Twitter, but realised that THIS is better kept as my Monday post topic).

For this way of updating to work for me (and, of course, this is all about things working for ME 🙂 ) I think we need something unique to the project. I just looked at the Twitter feeds for #libblogweekly and for #glamblog . The first hashtag has a tweet from me and one from Con. The second had some of our discussion, some really nice and useful posts to other GLAM-sector blogs… and a couple of lovely tips about glitter eyeshadow, super poses I could strike while modelling winter wear and how to win a free prom dress… If it is OK with everyone, I would like to go with #libblogweekly 🙂

(Edit before posting:  because I can never just settle on ONE thing,

What about instead …

#glamblogweekly ?? 

I’m tagging THIS post with #blogjune so people who were #blogjune-ing in the same way I did can find this and jump to #glamblogweekly or whatever hashtag we use ?

The discipline and structure of needing to publish daily was a huge advantage to #blogjune. Don’t think too hard, but just hard enough. Don’t wait until the perfect topic or way of saying has been achieved (often a big block with blogging I think), but get something out. I like the idea of weekly posts. I am guessing that there will be some “OMG, it’s Sunday night, what will I write for tomorrow” posts, but we’ll see.

I’m in.



Jun 302017

… and nothing stopping me from saying it here after #blogjune has finished … but I suspect that I will pipe down a bit for a while.

I still haven’t responded to Paul’s discussion of Content as Experience … in which I would argue that if libraries are looking at “competition” or what is a similar experience to our book-lending service, then we have to compare it to other cultural-consumption experiences, rather than considering it mainly as physical stock-movement. “We give it to them for free” shows misunderstanding of the costs of access to get to the physical …

And I wanted to ask whether everyone thought that “Kindness as a motivator for library work” was a limp and wishy-washy navel-gazing potential PhD topic. (Explanation: something techie would go stale in the 6 years it would take me to finish part-time, and actually when I think about what I really care about, what I am passionate about, it probably is kindness…).

And to compliment Ruth on her quiet and discreet (yes, it is you I am talking about…) efforts to give encouraging comments on almost every post I visited on other people’s #blogjune posts.

And mention how much I enjoy Andrew’s thoughts about ..well, everything. And snail’s reviews of films AND snails. And that Con’s post today is almost the same as what I would have written, except she did it first. And then feel like I have missed out on several people who did mighty jobs and made interesting posts who I DID read, but just did not mention here…who are from the next generation of up and coming library communicators, and reassure me that the on-going conversation is in good hands.

Or to ponder why, with the best intentions, I think I am unlikely to be able to keep up a “post once a week” for a year challenge …. even though #blogjune is really equal to over half of the effort involved.


Jun 292017

Thanks to all who played along with my #blogjune challenge.

I was going to summarise these, but…

Both my sons received excellent school reports today, beating their personal bests and getting the best possible feedback for attitude. (During the parent /teacher feedback session for one kid today the maths teacher started the session by leaning her pink-striped head right into our space and saying in the loudest voice “He’s doing BLOODY WELL”).

So, as a spontaneous celebration, the kids’ dad and I took them out for dinner. Two very large teenagers and a Greek buffet. I think the buffet won. Just.

The last half of dinner degenerated into people lining up two salt shakers and the metal table number and lifting them up, waving them about saying “goat”, “car”. One member of the party had never come across the Monty Hall problem. I had. I think there is no advantage to switching and the probability remains at 50:50 regardless of what went before. And regardless of how many salt shakers are shaken at me.

So – no chance to blog anything deeper before bed 🙂


Jun 282017

In gratitude for Paul’s suggestion that all blogjune-ers post about the same topic on the same day, I created a pre-packaged question and offered it to other #blogjune folk as a topic for today.

Or – if you have been lurking, you could make this your one #blogjune post and play too. As long as you pop it somewhere with a URL then post the URL to Twitter with the #blogjune hashtag then I will slurp it up into a Storify here tomorrow. The topics are below. Respond to just one or both.

  • If you could go back and tell your 20 year old self one thing that was going to happen to you between then and today, what would that be?
  • In 20 years time (presuming the world gets better, not worse) what do you think will be the biggest technological difference between your life now and your life then ?

And – although I have had a lot of time to think, I am not really prepared.

If I went back to when I was 20, I guess I would let myself know that my mum would die in 12 years time. I am not sure whether the rules of this question allow it (heck –  it’s my question, they do) but I would tell my younger self that there was a test for that kind of slow-growing cancer and that I should persuade mum to get checked regularly.

In 20 years time, I think the biggest difference will be around being able to be identified without any doubt. I can imagine some kind of remote DNA scanner that would be incorporated in many of the sites that we are today hooking up as “Internet of Things”, but super-augmented to the point that everything in my environment was tracking me and recording data. Since the world gets better, rather than leading to some kind of dystopian enslavement and restriction, it would mean incredible freedoms. Shops would “know” whether I had funds to pay for something, so I could just take it. Take it? They would know where I lived and would deliver it. I could even shop somewhere that understood my inherited metabolic needs, so would tailor my diet to any intolerances that I may have or foods that would be better for my body. No need for a library card, customer loyalty card, even for keys.

Jun 272017

As I mentioned in my post from yesterday, the very nice Mylee Joseph asked me whether I had any “hot tips you’d like to share with newbie library types” for her  New Librarians Symposium 8 keynote.


The first one was about taking a career break. The second is about knowing your own values.

“Know your own values and don’t waste time working somewhere that is not a good fit for them. Think about whether your daily job activities and the aim of an organisation work for you. Libraries allow you to work in knowledge management to maximise profits for high end Fortune 500 companies or to do literacy work with educational charities. Having your values challenged is healthy and worthwhile and should not stop you from taking a position. Making yourself unhappy or ill if you take a job because you would feel “unambitious” or like you were wasting an opportunity, will waste your time.

(By the way, if you want to play #blogjune and have not, or are already playing …. and would like a topic for Wednesday 28 June, then please be part of my Time Travel Challenge and answer one or both of these questions … and post a link to Twitter with the #blogjune hashtag:

  1. If you could go back and tell your 20 year old self one thing that was going to happen to you between then and today, what would that be?
  2. In 20 years time (presuming the world gets better, not worse) what do you think will be the biggest technological difference between your life now and your life then ? )