Legal Knowledge Management – What’s it all about?

After a fifteen minute march from the Clyde & Co office where I’m currently based, I arrived at Shearman and Sterling to a bustling room full of legal information specialists all looking keen to establish a channel of communication for their respective KM concerns.


John Beaumont began by explaining that BIALL had been talking about a knowledge management special interest group for a good few months, indeed I’d been made aware of this by my manager who sits on the committee.


Jane Bradbury, head of knowledge at Slaughter and May provided a good overview of the evolution of information roles within law firms since the 1990s. During this decade roles were decidedly more fixed; there was the stereotypical librarian, “the gatekeeper” or library partner. Though such partners may still exist now, the role will tend to be solely budget focused.


Jane highlighted that law firms, by nature are “knowledge businesses” and as the commercial world has increasingly realised the value locked in its knowledge assets, firms have raced to put systems in place to capture and extract the knowledge within the organisation. The fixed and more traditional roles of the 90s have made the transition into information provision (concerned with external information distribution) and knowledge organisation (internal sharing of know-how). The purpose of the interest group was to provide a communication platform for those whose job roles had begun to encompass the latter domain.


Jane mapped out the borders of where information managers, knowledge managers and professional support lawyers converge and shared her belief that when such departments effectively communicate and collaborate, business support can achieve true potential.


The realm of the PSLs, she proclaimed, was the detailed knowledge of transactions and the expertise behind their capacity to analyse, judge relevancy, avoid risk, apply the law to the facts, draft, advise and explain.


Information professionals bring a commercial awareness to the arena, offering not only the ability to do legal research but to provide business information, supporting business development functions and offering skills such as negotiation and an understanding of software.


Knowledge organisers seem to require a hybrid of these skillsets but the emphasis seemed to be on the ability to listen. Anne Ashdown’s (TFPL) follow up talk clarified some of the key skills required. It should not be assumed that information needs are clear; the ability to think commercially, to ask questions and try to understand business needs were highlighted as key skills. Upon reflection, it seems to me to be the mastering of a balancing act between acute listening and successful influencing. Shy and retiring types must find a voice to successfully raise the profile of KM initiatives across the organisation and to find champions across the board and persistently demonstrate value. There was a real emphasis on collaborative working and problem solving.


Jane highlighted some “hot topics” in KM from modes of delivery for current awareness to the deconstruction of transactions to make  them as efficient as possible. There was a variety of methods she alluded to including process mapping, document automation, drafting tools, natural language processing and artificial intelligence. For me, the underlying message was the need to understand the technology behind these tools.


The Q and A session at the end was perhaps the most illuminating in expressing the reality of KM across city law firms. A universal problem was the lack of time PSLs have to devote to advocating KM initiatives, some people expressed concerns about how to assert authority and create a credible image. Another challenge was the often small size of KM departments against the backdrop of much larger organisations. Some people voiced concerns of breaking the traditional stereotype of the library as an antiquated concept related only with physical books and hard copy materials. The advice was to re-brand, re-name and even re-locate if necessary but implicit in all this advice was the need to make waves in the firm and get the message out through as many means as possible. The lesson was to always be listening and always looking for ways of demonstrating value and proving the usefulness of the service. Be aware, be assertive and be innovative. Lawyers don’t want to hear what can’t be done with the resources, they want solutions. Be positive in responding to requests, even where the full requirements can’t quite be met.


All in all, the session seemed perfectly timed with the recent news of my new job starting in July which will have a heavy KM focus. I’ll look forward to BIALL’s new special interest group and the support it will provide.


The New Year… Reflections on the journey of legal librarianship

And thus ends the first working week of the New Year…

I’m currently experiencing a cherished reprieve from the frenetic rush that accompanies the lifestyle of working a full time job and simultaneously studying for a master’s degree.  This week has held host to some rare luxuries; like meditation, actual sleep and, dare I say it, exploiting my sofa of an evening as opposed to the usual cortisol injected proceedings of rinsing productivity out of every available minute. Seriously, it’s 9.30 am on a Saturday morning and I don’t already have an inelastic regime for the impending week; no joy deprived schedules or overly unrealistic expectations of myself – nothing. I had projected feeling ill at ease, guilt-ridden in a situation so converse to the usual as this but so far, I can only express pure exultation. In such circumstances it feels natural to implement a reflective perspective of the past few months and contemplate the intellectual advances I’ve gained on the territory of legal librarianship and indeed on life itself.

The first term of my degree was a sharp, steep learning curve that was enjoyable, exhausting and enlightening all at once; seemingly insurmountable challenges have been conquered and I can finally say with conviction that I’m on my way to being qualified.

IMG_1614[1]Amongst the two simultaneous modules I have to express my preference for the “Information studies” module which, as vague and all-encompassing as that may sound, turned out to provide tutorial on a very specific set of skills. The objective of the module was to answer a real life information enquiry, which interestingly for me, was instigated by the “business consultant” of the university who is using research into mentoring to establish a new service for Robert Gordon to offer business clients in the oil and gas industry. Her research requirements were very specific; to enquire into the literature on mentoring where business objectives are the primary focus (rather than the usual objectives of development of the individual/’s career).

As I laboured hour after hour on this rather obscure topic, one of the most illuminating actualities to transpire was the retrospective realisation of the inferiority of what I had, back then, ventured to call my “research skills”. The completion of this assignment was a humbling process of intervention; never again will I conduct research into anything with the patchy, sporadic and serendipitous approach I had found it satisfactory to employ during my undergrad degree. Though the library was always my favourite retreat, I clearly never understood the gravity of what it was actually for. Yes I went on the tour and induction (no doubt in a very hung over state) but I somehow missed the pertinence of the message that this miraculous place was not just a cosy abode in which I could study and concurrently live out my Hogwarts dream (catch The University of Birmingham in the right nook or cranny and a Hogwarts-esque quality cannot be denied) but it is, indeed, the gateway to knowledge; the podium to understanding; the key to knowing.

I know it may be considered contentious to use the word “gateway” now; we prefer to think of ourselves as enablers, facilitators of learning but I feel that it is appropriate phrasing to use in referring to an educational establishment and on an academic journey where I honestly did feel, at times, that knowledge and understanding was eluding me. This was due partly to the fact that I personally found the experience very intellectually challenging and partly because of the frequent demonstrations of reluctance and (dare I say) hostility to my scholarly progression. I realise that negativity and vilification is an ugly emotion and so I shall dither here no longer but the experiment whereby I proved that my dissertation tutor had hidden in her room and pretended not to be in when she was in fact, occupying the room all along (yes, that’s right; I waited silently outside until she ventured to surface) must bear some significance to my claims.

I suppose this is some-what an aside, a digression perhaps but the point I seek to render is that my comprehension of both the purpose of a library, particularly within an academic setting and my research skills have evolved dramatically for the better. I hasten to add that there were also some very positive experiences of learning at The University of Birmingham but I think what I encountered irradiates a wider issue; that perhaps more needs to be done in correlating the fundamental teaching at universities (i.e. classroom learning, the lectures and lecturers themselves) to the support offered by the information services and libraries. It is only when the two entities are combined that learning is at its most cataclysmic.

It may be that my experience was obscure, indeed at the Robert Gordon University there is an admirably seamless dialogue between the teaching and support services though I can’t quite tell if this is because of the mode of learning (i.e. distance learning – online) or that my personal conception of the benefits of the library has matured. Either way, I’m enjoying learning about libraries in so many new and interesting ways that I’d never even considered I could.

My second module was slightly less technical in that rather than refining my database interrogation skills and my understanding of information user needs, I learned about the “management” aspects of librarianship. Management is a notoriously woolly subject and I have to admit, there is only so much theory one can learn that could be considered useful. I do agree upon its necessity though and now feel better acquainted with some of the key concepts such as HR, planning, finance and strategy. By far the most enjoyable part of the module was the assignment itself in which I outlined a proposal for the establishment of in information services. Using my local Borough as the hypothetical setting allowed me gain an understanding of the considerations one would have to take in the successful implementation and maintenance of such a service.

What else have I learned since writing? Of not is my visit to the Law Society Library in London which was far more “Hogwarts-ier” than anywhere I’ve been so far. After tinkering up the perilously rudimentary “stairway” onto the upper level of the library, the librarian offered a fascinating insight into the functions of the collection and the varied community it serves. As I clung to the weathered balustrade and cast my eyes across the multitudinous collection I appended a further dimension to my conception of legal information services. It was fruitful for me to observe such services in a non-corporate environment.

There were similarities such as the database of know-how the library has been building for around two decades in IMG_1620[1]their efforts to avoid duplication of labour, just like the one at Clyde’s (although obviously in quite a different format), the core legal databases and the notorious evidence of preference for good old-fashioned hard copy books which seem so ingrained in the traditional domain of law. There were differences too though, exhibitions of the librarians’ innate passion for preservation which is perhaps less prominent in a corporate environment; we were told about projects whereby the librarians have begun to record basic biographical information on the individuals of firms across the country. The termination of such directories by the big publishers has inadvertently begun to create a void in crucial information that has helped people to trace family history. Many people visit the law library in the hopes of tracing an individual, often to facilitate the implementation of wills and such legal documents which is enabled by the information recorded in these directories, the librarians have diligently picked up where the publishers have left off and tried to culminate this information from various other sources in order to have the data available in one consolidated collection. Conservation was also an issue which I’ve never witnessed arise in commercial settings for obvious reasons, there was a heavy emphasis on historical law books and archives for which there are large designated repositories which can be accessed relatively quickly (even though a predominant part of this is based offsite, up North). At Clyde & Co, it is practically dangerous to keep any books which aren’t up to date and I painfully admit that in manay cases, when one book is catalogued, its predecessor goes straight in the (recycling, obviously) bin.

Finally, this past few months has propelled me to the “front-line position” on the enquiries desk. Thrill and dread coincided when I took my first session in the “hot-seat” handling enquiries from international offices and practice areas seemed a rather daunting task when I was secretly still at the stage where I had to google the definitions of terms like “arbitration” and “tort”. Though I still feel I have a long way to go, more and more I’m really enjoying getting my teeth stuck into research that is serving big law cases. I feel I’m slowly mastering the basics, honing my case law and company information research skills. I like the fact that the work is varied, you never know what you’re going to get asked;no one enquiry will ever be the same (unless it’s an enquiry from the lawyer I won’t name who asks a question, forgets he’s asked it and resubmits it, only to a different person that handled the initial enquiry… oh the futility!). I finally feel that I’m cultivating a unique skill-set that I’m enjoying employing and developing in my day to day work; the experience is irrefutably enhanced by my the theoretical studies of my masters degree and though I feel I’ve never worked harder than I am now, I’m also enjoying things more than ever.

I shall end in the vain I began – with the mention of The New Year. Though I’ve attended a few CILIP events and IMG_1625[1]tours I do feel I would like to be more professionally involved; I can’t help but feel that corporate law librarians are slightly under-represented by CILIP though, and though I’ve attended events of great interest and relevance I’m still searching for my niche. I have a lot to give and will make it my New Year’s Resolution to seek out opportunities to give a little back or get more involved with some of the causes that perhaps aren’t directly linked to what I do on a day to day basis but represent the wider picture of librarianship because it is fast becoming one of my greatest passions, and in a sector where advocacy is vital, I’m sure my voice is needed somewhere to add to the noise of how important libraries are!


Thing 23: Making it all Work Together

I have often wondered how people manage when they are in charge of running multiple social media accounts for work / on committees but hootsuite seems like a good way around it. I like the fact that you can have separate streams for mentions / retweets/ messages etc.


At the moment my personal needs probably don’t justify using a tool like this though I can see how it would be massively beneficial for social media managers. I’ve enjoyed having a flit around checking some of the features out but for me, I like keeping all of my social media accounts separate – in my mind I can distinguish each network as each one is used for a slightly different purpose. Having them all in one place would probably just confuse me!


I never really gelled with flip board the first time we explored it in thing 8 so I didn’t bother doing it this time (particularly as it’s public to all and I don’t want my twitter and Facebook mingling). It’s useful to bear in mind for future instances though as I enjoy using twitter and I’d love to do it for a special interest group or committee as I think there’s actually quite a lot of scope for creativity (just look at the Orkney Island Library’s twitter account for an example of this).


I can’t believe this is the final “thing”! I just want to thank all of the librarians who have devoted their time to making this a stimulating and educational experience. I’m so glad I made the off the cuff decision to take part as it’s been really rewarding and I’ve learned so many new things.

Thing 22: Mobile Things

smartphone-431230_1280Considering the fact that I’m a product of the mobile generation, I was a particularly late bloomer. This was due largely to the fact that I was banished for an entire four year period from owning a mobile device. Before you pity me I can only highlight at this point that this was wholly accountable to my own stupidity.

When smart phones became available at a reasonable price on contract I went straight to the shop and emerged with a shiny new phone which I had no idea how to use. Within the space of a week I had gone out into town and had come back phoneless – I won’t go into detail but all I’ll say is that the truth of what actually happened versus the embellished story I used to explain the situation to my parents were somewhat at odds with each other. In the latter I’d featured as the downtrodden victim of a facetious criminal who had targeted me with nothing but malicious intent whereas the former (more realistic) version featured a pair of high-heels, a shiny, alcohol laced floor and a spread eagled Jordan Murphy whose inebriated brain could only focus on one operational task at a time, the consequences of which led to a considerably extended window of time for fellow dance-floor inhabitants to seize as yet, unclaimed scattered handbag items.

As if this story were not terrible enough, after waiting painstakingly for the two year contract I had signed to end so that I could finally be on par with my, by this time, much more technologically advanced peers, I walked into the shop, re-emerged with said desired smartphone and repeated the same process all over again. Four years after the beginning of this woeful tale began, I experienced a “third-time-lucky” situation and you’ll be glad to hear that my wiser and much more sensible self has had the self-awareness and organisation to be able to hold onto my smartphone!

By the time I finally had such a device, apps were already a well-established phenomenon and it has taken me until now to fully feel comfortable with and actually enjoy using them. I have in fact crossed to the other side and can now say “I couldn’t live without my I-phone”.

Some of the apps I’ve found really useful, aside from the obvious social networking sites and other tools we’ve covered in this course are Evernote and Google keep which are great for personal organisation, facilitating what I essentially consider my own personal database of files which can be accessed anywhere on any device. Though an internet enabled sign-in is required on PCs, the app on my phone allows me to access documents without the internet. Evernote allows users to create “Notebooks” in which any type of file is stored. For instance I have a travel notebook in which I keep a tube map, train timetable, any ticket booking confirmations and also quick notes I’ve jotted down about how to get somewhere. I have a recipe notebook, a work notebook and a “Tickets and confirmations” notebook. The free version has been more than adequate so far for my personal requirements as I only use it for current documents and delete any I no longer need. I suppose it’s nice to know your files are saved in an additional place which is easily accessible that requires no internet connection.

A very useful feature was the provision of an email address for my evernote account which could be used to email documents to although this is limited and I have now reached my capacity. All in all though a very useful app.

I also love functional apps such as mobile banking and the BBC weather app because, well, I have to live up to the British stereotype of constantly checking the weather despite the fact that one can be pretty safe in the knowledge of grey, cold, wet.

I will also check out the GUM app and see what happens with my copy of John Green’s novel which I’m fairly certain is sitting on my bookshelf.


Image courtesy of Pixabay

Thing 21: Creating Infographics

So here’s my inforgraphic! I hope you like it. I’ve used this tool once before but I think improvements have been made since then as there seem to be lots of additional features, templates and graphics.

I’m a big fan of conveying information in this format. I’ve read a few articles about just how effective it actually is for our brain to digest data in this way.
My end of term assignment for the “information studies” module is to produce a bibliography for a research enquiry. One component of the assignment is to produce a concept map of the topic and I’m really glad I’ve been reminded of these tools as I’m definitely going to give this a go.

I’m very pleased with pictochart; it looks professional and sleek and will be an invaluable tool in future instances for a variety of purposes.

Thing 20: Presentations

team-720291_1280I remember being truly horrified at university when a fellow student had the audacity to suggest an alternative to power point in a project we had to present. How dare they? I truculently reasoned that we had enough change to deal with when Microsoft updated their packages, why on earth would we inflict more strife upon ourselves? Prezi was a relatively new tool and I was resistant to computers back then, never mind new applications on computers that was just one step too far. 

I had taken one look and knew instantly by the professional veneer of it all that it was far too advanced for me. Years later, bad attitude amended and fear of technology semi-subsided, I return to my old nemesis and am surprisingly delighted to find a user friendly application that looks pleasingly polished. 

Having overcome the slightly nauseating slide transition I'm coming to the conclusion that Prezis are in a format that's very conducive to expressing conceptual ideas.

I watched the "learn prezi fast" presentation which did what it said on the tin and away I went. I just used some notes I've made for my course as the content, just to get an idea. 

It seems quite simple but one thing I haven't yet quite conquered is how to change the dimensions of a text box if it wasn't already pre-inserted to the template. The thought has just struck me however that perhaps I can copy and paste one of the text boxes I can seem to change. I did have a look in the searchable know how box but this didn't seem to be covered.

I've enjoyed this "thing" and would be inclined to use prezi in the future for sure.

My presentation is rough around the edges due to the textbox issue I've mentioned but finished is better than nothing - you have to draw the line somewhere! Here it is!

Image from (License CCO)

Thing 19: The Legal Side of Things

copyrightI’m really glad this week’s topic is exploring the legal side of copyright and would also like to add a massive thanks to Caroline for her informative blog post which I think is a fantastic introduction to some of the issues to be aware of (I’m also reminded at this point how useful the Rudai 23 pinterest board is for collating all of this invaluable information). Without meaning to summon angry librarians with pitchforks to my door, I have to admit that it was only since I started my graduate traineeship that I ever even considered ensuring a work is referenced properly / checked for restrictions (excluding University essays!).

In an effort to redeem myself – I will point out that it is a topic I’ve found extremely interesting since I became aware of it. It became particularly prevalent almost a year ago, last October / November when a campaign called “#Catch 2039” was rippling through museums, archives, libraries and cultural institutes last year. You can read my blog post from last year about it here. I’ll sum it up briefly by explaining that tensions rising in the arts and heritage sector climaxed as the centenary of World War I approached and institutions across the country were prevented from displaying relics of the period. This was a sad thing for lots of institutions because they were severely restricted in curating and displaying material; many amazing artefacts like letters and journals were not permitted to be used and so remained gathering dust under lock and key away from public sight. Many establishments like the British museum for instance highlighted the issue by displaying empty display cases with a note saying:

“In this display there would have been *a letter from a First World War solider to his sweetheart*. Because of current copyright laws, in this instance, we cannot display the original. Join the campaign to free our history. We must reduce the term of copyright of unpublished works from 2039 to lifetime plus 70 years”.

It's a  tricky thing to police and it's admirable that organisations like WIPO (which I believe CILIP were granted "observer status" to last year) are in place to establish fair practice. Whilst Caroline's post highlighted the protection that artists and creators are rightfully experiencing, the #Catch2039 campaign reminds us of the flip side and the hindrances that can be caused by copyright laws which don't serve their society most efficiently.

When I look back to my university days and recall how seriously plaigerism was taken and how important proper referencing was, I feel silly for not considering that other media forms were similarly proptected. I do think this highlights the need for better education in schools about this - I certainly don't remember ever being taught anything about it and considering the evolution of the internet and media sharing, guidelines need to be taught to young people. Perhaps this is now a aprt of the curriculum, i'd be interested to know what "Subject" this would fall under.

Throughout my posts I've used a mixture of my own photographs, some off of my university stock photos database and admittedly, nearer the beginning, some from Pinterest. I wholeheartedly admit that in none of the above scenarios have I checked thouroughly enough, the implications of copyright law. I have been making some very niave assumptions! Now I reflect on this I just don't think I viewed images on sites like pinterest to hold the same rules as one you'd get in a book. I feel really silly admitting this now! 

I also made an assumption about the database of images that my university provides for its students - I wrongly assumed that because we can use them we don't have to worry about citing them but I must check if this is the case. 

Reading the terms of the creative commons highlighted an interesting point which I'd certainly never thought of before - protecting my own images which I use on my blog. To be honest I don't really think I mind people re-using my sunset images if they wish, I'm happy for the beauty of my area to be perpetuated but it's certainly something I didn't consider before now.

This "thing" has been a real learning curve for me, it's certainly changed my perspective for the better and I will continue to bear in mind the importance of re-using the intellectual property of others a little more mindfully. I'm a little gutted that the reference must be directly beneath the image, perhaps there's a way around this. I must investigate further! For now though I've had a quick flick around on some of the creative commons sites and have familiarised myself with the terms - using these two images has given me a bit of practice - I got the first one from the commons courtesy of the Welcomme Library and the first was from pixabay and didn't require any attribution.
V0010962 A angry mob of villagers protesting outside the house of a d Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images A angry mob of villagers protesting outside the house of a doctor, he responds by squirting a syringe at them. Watercolour. Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

V0010962 A angry mob of villagers protesting outside the house of a d
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
A angry mob of villagers protesting outside the house of a doctor, he responds by squirting a syringe at them. Watercolour.
Published: –
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Thing 18: telling stories through pictures

Of all of the Web 2.0 tools I’m a fan of, Instagram and Flickr have always presented a few problems for me. Until now, when I hear the word Instagram I can’t help but think of hipsters with their artisan ciders and carefully trimmed beards, health freaks snapping their “gluten free, chai seed blueberry muffins” and “it girls’s” selfies of Botox filled lips and HD eyebrows with the inevitable flash of Micheal Kors watch and handbag. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s all so “look at me, look how cool I am”, yeah well you know what, I eat blueberries every morning for breakfast but I just don’t feel the need to brandish this around for all the world to see.

Ok so perhaps I’m being slightly hyperbolic here. A little. Maybe. But I see how music videos and popular culture filter in through their mass medias and then I see Instagram pictures desperately trying to replicate this “ideal world” where people seem to prance about with Indian chief headdresses in vintage convertible cars with tribal tattoos and fringed leather jackets… I could go on and on and no, this isn’t a personal attack on Lana Del Ray or any of the celebrities and artists that I can’t help but notice people methodically (yet oh so nonchalantly) trying to replicate. I have just tended to feel in the past that image sharing platforms like this are perpetuating the desire for attaining perfection and young people are probably the demographic with highest exposure whilst simultaneously being the most vulnerable. When I was fourteen I remember been hypnotised by the beauty of the models in vogue and Elle but it didn’t make me feel good, it made me feel like I wasn’t good enough and never would be like them. Obviously what happened next was that I grew up and realised that actually it’s not natural to have a “thigh gap”, I noticed that actually no human beings really looked that insanely perfect because air brushing could only be performed on media generated images. I just fear that if I felt the damaging presence of these images of perfection ten years ago, what must it be like for young girls now? They have to contend with a constant barrage of content which they’ll inevitably be comparing themselves to. Perhaps I’m being over the top and I realise how conservative I sound but I don’t like this culture of vanity and comparison that has irrefutably evolved at a cataclysmic rate due to platforms like this. I just know if I had a daughter I’d have to think very carefully about how I’d have her interact with these applications.

I really hate to sound negative and I accept that there are probably many societal positives to come from this as well as the bad stuff. For instance, I don’t think I ever even knew about the Creative Commons project but I think it’s incredible. For all of the7548442648_761a493a2a_h issues presented by the very history we are making being under threat by superseding technologies, it’s great to know that such a grass roots project has been Bourne to document our 21st century world and not only that but it’s being supported by so many cultural institutions. I love how, once registered you are invited to make the commons richer by sharing your knowledge, its a library democracy! I lost myself for about two hours last night just ogling the amazing images that have been captured from space and planets to plants and wildlife and finally old images of places i’ve lived or been to. This is truly a gem of our time.

I can see how photo sharing is an invaluable resource for libraries and museums, particularly as technologies emerge and threaten old media formats with extinction; I’d hope that projects like the creative commons will allow photograohs to be carried through change and remain protected. One of our biggest threats is losing important pieces of history which seems more of a problem now than ever before. I tried to download the instagram app last night but my laptop wouldn’t let me for some reason but I’m also quite glad. I hope I don’t get reprimanded for not taking part in this aspect of the task but I just don’t quite feel too comfortable with using this yet. I also have the fear that apps like this automatically sync your personal images from your phone and that’s something I just don’t want to have to deal with! I am however glad to have come accross flickr, I won’t be using it in a personal or professional capacity at the moment because it’s not too relevant for either but I’m a happier chappy knowing the commons exists. It’s also given me chance to dig up an old picture of Trinity College Dublin from The National Library of Ireland’s commons account.

(Image taken from The national Liibrary of Ireland’s Creative Commons account Flickr)

I hope some one will tell me if I’m not attributing this correctly!

Thing 17: Reflective Practice

photoI first saw the Rudai23 things blog through another participant’s blog whom I was already following. Aside from looking fun and interesting I thought it would be a great way to really push myself to learn about all of the Web 2.0 tools that can enhance learning, professional development and personal organisation / current awareness. I spend 90% of my time at work keeping lawyers abreast of the developments in their industry so why should I not strategically plan how to do the same for myself? Additionally I thought it would be a great way to ease me in to the routine of learning and evaluating right before starting my masters next week (eek!).

My main concern initially was the practicality of whether or not I had time to commit to this; one of my pet hates is people committing to something without being realistic about what is involved and then flaking out halfway through. My reasoning here was that if I’m going to learn how to fit a master’s degree around my full time job then I should be able to time manage this relatively small to medium personal side project. Another preconception I was fostering before beginning the course was the worry that I would be held back by my questionable state of affairs regarding technology and money (or lack of) in order to complete all tasks but the course has been constructed to allow pretty much any one with access to a computer to participate so that this really hasn’t been an issue. The only time I have been slightly let down was my inability to participate in the Google hangout. I don’t have broadband at home and rely on coming into work early to use the computers in my pre-work “breakfast power hour”. I do have an I phone to my advantage though and have found it an invaluable device throughout the process; it means that I can maximise my efficiency and work on tasks en route each day. As a person who spends roughly two hours every day commuting it’s crucial for me to use this time effectively.

I feel really positive about the time management skills I have honed and have found a routine that works for me which allows me to incorporate spending time each week on the “thing” at hand. There have been some things that I’ve felt very confident with; as a product of the social media generation, I have been reminded throughout both my educational and professional career how important building a good professional brand is. Recruiters and employers alike have advocated the integral nature of, not only to having a “clean” profile but also one that demonstrates your interests in the profession. I’ve found that my increasing interaction with online professional networks and my gradual cultivation of my professional brand has now left me in a position where despite my status as a (for now) unqualified information worker in an assistant role, I still feel that I have valuable opinions that are worth sharing across professional networks. To put it plainly, my participation in this course has really boosted my confidence.

In the weeks where we’ve explored things like library advocacy and membership to professional bodies / attending professional events my perspective has changed. For the handful of events I’ve attended prior to now, though I’ve enjoyed them and done my best to reflect proactively and learn from the experience, I’ve always had the sneaking feeling at the back of my mind that I’m not a fully fledged professional yet and therefore I’m cheating by being there. I’ve worried about my cover being blown and that people will find out I’m not a “real” information professional and the game will be over! Being a part of the Rudai 23 community has made me realise not only how friendly librarians are but what a diverse bunch we are;  different job roles and different levels of experience make for the most interesting conversations! As a newbie I may lack the experience that many others possess but sometimes a fresh perspective can be just as valuable. In future I hope to remember this and remind myself if I’m ever feeling a little vulnerable in a professional context: it’s so much better to put yourself out there for the gains rather than justify keeping your mouth shut for fear you’ll look weak.

Specifically I’ve enjoyed learning about some quite technical things which I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to do without being prompted; the creation of your own augmented reality campaign is something I’ve been massively inspired by and i’m waiting for the perfect opportunity to put it into practice. The screencast software was a great thing to get to grips with too and whilst I doubt it will prove relevent in my job, it’s great to know it’s out there as you never know what you might be doing in the future. Podcasts have opened up a whole new world to me; I was aware of its existance but I’ve now been exposed to one more way to digest specialised and interesting content. Cumulatively one of the biggest benefits of learning about some of these platforms is that in addition to the learning process of the course, I feel like I’ve done a “digital audit” of my general online life and I’ve done a spring clean – I’ve got rid of the services / accounts that I feel no longer serve me and I’ve consolidated my favourite online content (whilst simultaneously discovering new stuff to) into an organised format that works for me.light at the end of the tunnel

I’ve identified that one of my downfalls is paying attention to liscencing terms regarding images. I hope I don’t make too many enemies out of admitting this (I know it’s a hot topic amongst librarians) but I’m still relatively new to being conscientious about what images I use and exactly how I accredit them. It’s duly noted as something to work on and I’m sure I’ll learn all of the intracies with my masters in Information Management.

In broader terms I think I’ve realised throughout the hours I’ve put into this course that the more you put into something the more you get out. There have been certain tasks where I haven’t put too much time into it and I’m the first to admit it, I can at least counteract the negativity of that by saying that this has been an active choice – time is a valuable resource and we should be mindful how we use it. Everyone has constraints and the more we’re aware of that the more we can mindfully choose how we distribute what we do have. For the “things” that I was already very familiar with (like Twitter, Facebook, Goggle) I put more time into the reflection and the blog post than I did the actual exploring of the platform but still I didn’t over-do it. For the weeks where everything was new to me I was far more generous with my time, I wanted to make the most of the opportunity I had (“opportunity” being 260 other librarians all pushing their oars in the same direction paddling unified into the current of th unknown!”).

I’d like to add that this very “thing”, thing 17 has actually been one of the tasks I’ve put the most effort into. Stephanie’s detailed evaluation of how refelction is a strategic self improvement proccess really motivated me to use this opportunity to assess my learning on a deeper level. I think this can be applied to anything we learn in life. I’ll round this off with a lovely little anecdote about a TED talk I listened to the other day; It was John Green talking about his novel Paper Towns (which I believe is being made into a movie right now). I certainly wasn’t drawn to the podcast because of the author or the book; I’ve never read any of his books but it was the title that hooked me “John Green: The Nerd’s Guide to Learning Everything”. Ok so spoiler alert – listening to this podcast will not teach you how to learn everything i’m afraid. Instead Green gives a brief introduction to the origin of the title of his book. He talks about a map that The General Drafting Company of New York made in 1937. He aludes to a trick that mapmakers use in order to identify breach of copyright – he explains that they make up the name of a place which doesn’t exist and if they see it on another map they know that person has copied their map. The Gernal Drafting Company used this on their 1937 map of New York and created a fake town called Agloe. Decades later a guy caled Rand McNally makes a map with Agloe and it seems he’s caught red handed. But it turns out that what had happened is that so many people had seen this famous map and visited this spot that Agloe manifested itself as a real place, an actual town – businesses, shops and cafes sprung up around this once fictional coordinate that it turned from being fictitious to reality. After musing a while about his own experiences of learning Green argues that cartography is like learning; we sail to a land and absorb it and then we’re curious about what is over the next small part of ocean so we sail over there and add this new place to the map and progressively we start building our own map of knowledge. I used to think at school that there was a capacity of information in the world, that one day If I worked hard enough I would know everything there was to know and I guess if I tie this to the map metaphore, I thought that the map was already in place and that all I had to do was visit everywhere eventually. But knowledge is a beautiful yet slippery thing and as John Green metaphorically says (yes, if you’ve made it this far I promise the map metaphors will be over soon) we are all cartographers of our own unique learning maps.

Well Rudai23- thanks – I’ve really enjoyed the journey.

(You can watch the full talk here).


Thing 16: Collaborative Tools

Chain made of colorful paper clips on white background

Chain made of colorful paper clips on white background

Tools like Google docs were just about in existence during my time at university though it was the very early days where caution and suspicion we’re exercised before “signing up” to things and “creating accounts” willy nilly. I could count on one hand the sources that were incoming to my inbox and for as long as I could I stubbornly clung on to this ideal.

Things have changed however and as I acclimatise to the increasingly invasive nature of maintaining any sort of digital presence, I finally feel that the exchange of a few of my basic details for the advantage of clever collaborative tools and online resources is almost fair (when I put the fact that these basic details are being aggressively culled into one big melting pot of data which will inevitably be used to my own disadvantage by corporate companies for the perpetuation of the capitalist machine – yes when I put that to the back of my mind I can just about deem it a fair enough exchange).

Google Docs has been hot in the press recently with its new features set to rival Microsoft Office. I read a great article here  about Google Docs’ easy to use templates, spreadsheets and voice typing – it all sounds like pretty eciting stuff. I like how the platform works seamlessly with word to allow interchange between the two applications and I feel that as my University course gets underway I will find this an invaluable tool. As a distance learner I imagine that collaborative applications will be my best friend and as a stringent believer in everyone pulling their weight in team projects, it’s good to know that there will be no excuses for flakes! Dogs can only eat homework in paper format thanks very much! I’m looking forward to using some of the templates which I think will be helpful for some of the less traditionally academic aspects which I am less accustomed to like report writing and audits.

Scarily I was the first one to comment on the Rudai 23 collaborative document so I hope I’ve got it right!

I’ve used Docs twice before in a acollaborative way; I once added a question to a UKLIBCHAT discussion and I’ve also used them in the context of a lifestyle blog I used to contribute to; each week the list of article titles would be available for all the writers to access and each perosn would choose two or three titles that they would cover. It worked very practically in this way and I would certainly use it again for projects in the future.

Doodle looks like another convenient tool though I assume you have to have an account in order to use it. I have created an account but aren’t sure if you would be able to invite people to events if they don’t have a profile. If I ever do need to organise a proffessional event in the future I will bear it in mind but I doubt it would be useful at work as the company already has its own collaborative share point and all meetings are scheduled on Outlook calander. It’s all useful stuff to know though!