Friday, 27 June 2008

Library 2 You? Mini-conference, mini-report!

Yesterday I attended the Library 2.0 You? mini-conference. There were five speakers and four topics:

  1. Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts
  2. Virtual Environments (e.g. Second Life)
  3. Facebook and the Library Catalogue
  4. Virtual Reference

The first session was the one I actually felt I needed to see (though the others were certainly interesting and useful in their own right). Two librarians from the University of Bath took us through the whole process of impementing a library blog, from focus groups who apparently welcomed the idea of cutting down on mass email alerts, to planning how many blogs to publish and what sort of areas to cover, to the benefits in terms of time-saving, feedback through statistics on blog views, and the problems of promoting blogs to new readers.

One of the speakers made a connection with SCONUL's "vision" for 2010, saying that blogging especially meets the criteria of Personalisation and Collaboration.

The virtual worlds talk was surprisingly interesting, given how little interest I'd taken in Second Life at the LILAC 2008 - and it was somewhat worrying to find out about the virtual worlds being marketed to teens and kids as young as 3...! Apparently Teen Second Life has more users in the USA than the adult version. There were a lot of mentions of cultural change and attention economy and so on... it made me feel a bit strange, having grown up in the 80s and early 90s and just sort of stumbled across all these frankly rather nerdy things which are now becoming big trends (for how long? Even blogging is sort of a has-been by mainstream media standards!) and finding them intersting but not fascinating. What do people see in them? Apparently there's a very recent report from EduServe (hat tip to lindsay55 on CILIP's Communities for that!) on this whole thing.

Facebook and the library catalogue - an interesting confluence from a programming point of view, and I learned a lot about how Facebook works (slightly alarmed by the mention of all the private data on my profile being dumped to the application server every time I access an application... I will be deleting some apps soon, I'm sure!). But is it much use for the library? It would be good to have more feedback on this. I can see the value of having a Facebook presence, certainly, and I love the new OCLC WorldCat citation app, for example. But how is this going to look in future? Will we achieve the "pervasive library" mentioned in this Talis paper? "Pervasive library" was one of the terms used yesterday, but so far it seems the worry is whether things like this will give us the image "invasive library" (I don't think we should worry!).

The final talk was on virtual reference, another application I'd had my doubts about, having seen it in "action" but getting very little use from library users... However, apparently it is in full swing at and we had a session of audience participative evaluation of some (anonymised!) samples of real chat (ah, the excitement!). It's not so trendy any more but I think it's still a good concept and if users like it, why not? Still I only just resisted the temptation to ask, "why not just get everyone on Meebo?"...

All in all, a good day, with fine speakers and good catering ;) - it was good to see such a good turn out from all over the country too. Useful for reminding me that Web 2.0 is not just about blogging.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

More Web 2.0 fun...

...this time courtesy of Wordle (and a hat-tip to Meredith Farkas!):

Yes, it's my dissertation literature review as a tag-cloud! I beleive it must be putting size proportional to word frequency, and clustering terms that occur close to each other in the text closer in the cloud.

That's kind of my dream method for the dissertation actually; to make some sort of automated word frequency analysis and do all kinds of cool stuff to it... but given it's only a Masters and not a PhD in computer science I think we'll have to settle for plain old crank-the-handle Content Analysis.

Blog DNA?

Searching on Facebook for library blog groups to join, I discovered BScopes, a nice little visualisation tool for blogs, showing the posts in chronological order, with all their in- and out-links!

Here's the BScope for this blog: UK BiblioBlogoSphere BScope - it should now be nice and self-referential since it links to itself :)

Tuesday, 24 June 2008


This is not strictly about dissertation work, but rather about the whole Masters shebang.

I was catching up on PhD Comics this lunchtime and pondering the reasons why we go through the whole process of qualifying, especially given the well-known and thoroughly discussed and researched controversies over qualifications vs. experience in the library and information field.

Having heard all this cynicism and doom-saying since I got involved in libraries and information over 2 years ago (one can hardly avoid it even in the proffesional journals) I must say that I'm actually quite positive about my masters now that I've made it to the dissertation phase.

I am really interested in the subject and I think I'm likely to write more than I need for the dissertation. I genuinely want to share my findings and use this area of professional knowledge and practice with others, and I hope I can find some work in the academic library sector (eventually; I will be realistic enough to work in another sector if the "right" job doesn't arrive straight awy). All told, I feel pretty lucky to be doing this and I hope I'll look back on the process fondly.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Library 2 You?

There is a one-day conference / workshop entitled "Library 2 You?: Experiences of Web 2.0 in the Library Environment" this Thursday at my university. I can't wait for the session on library blogging. It should be very relevant to my work and cutting-edge and so on, plus I am getting a bit bogged down in the literature review now and maybe some inspiration will shake me up and get me back on track. Hopefully I'll meet some nice people too and make some good professional contacts. I'll do a write-up of my impressions and publish it here.

Feeling a bit of trepidation now that I have my almost-full-time job scheduled for next week; I really look forward to having the structure to plan my life around, of course, but I'm also concerned how I'm going to make the dissertation happen in 3 free days per week over 4 months...! I'm sure it must be possible; others have done it in much harder circumstances. Any tips most welcome.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

In memoriam: Laurel Anne Clyde

If there were to be a sort of hero or saint of the biblioblogosphere, my vote would go to the late Dr. Laurel Anne Clyde.

Her book, "Weblogs in Libraries" is the only scholarly monograph exclusively on this subject that I know of. OK, OK, there are also Mr. Crawford's great books but there are in a different style!

I've been reviewing her literature on the subject today, and there is quite a lot of it! She sort of pioneered the content analysis methods that have been used so far, and was a big advocate of taking this technology seriously in the library context.

If not for her untimely passing away, I'm sure I would have got in touch with her somehow for help with my research! As it is, this project will ultimately be dedicated to her memory.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Reviewing the literature

I have done quite a bit of background reading for this project already, since about 3 or 4 months ago, in fact!

However, until the last few days (i.e. since my first supervision!) I have realised that I wasn't doing a literature review - I was just reading.

Maybe I could claim to have done background reading and made some pretty good notes, but I haven't really reviewed the literature.

Today I ploughed through the whole of Michael Stephens' PhD on library blogging! This was a great experience, because he touches on most points that could possibly be relevant to any study of blogging. Plus, his methodology involved content analysis (more qualitative than what I want to do, but giving me some good pointers).

Plus his literature review is such a good example of the genre that I am now itching to get going with mine. The notes I made as I read pretty much re-structured my entire vision of the lit. review, and I can't wait to get it down on paper... or rather, in pixels.

My profile...

Technorati Profile

Wednesday, 18 June 2008


Looks at first glance that most of the blogs are actually quite "fresh" - i.e. they have a post in the last 3 months, if not this month or even this week.

At least this criterion filters out pretty much all of the abandonned blogs. Maybe a stricter criterion or a random sample is needed to ensure feasibility. My time will be limited once I start work next month.

I'm beginning to lean towards using the same kind of scheme as Lee and Bates' paper, since that seems to be a pretty acceptable technique, even in a PhD paper. As long as I am applying their technique to a new dataset, a new geographical area and a new sector, I think I am very much producing something original.

The real life of a postgrad researcher

After an hour of tramping round a deserted campus with a building site obscuring the cashpoints and no food outlets open at this hour, I am safely ensconced in the 24-hour computer lab to complete a 1-day pilot test of the blog currency criterion. Oh! for the 24-hour library... mind you, the aircon is good in here!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

First supervision

I had my first supervision this morning and I'm just writing up the action points which came out of it. Things seem a bit clearer now and I'm quite happy that I'm more or less on the right track.

I need to work on clarifying the statement of my research questions and getting them out of my head and onto paper. I was trying to link the actual content of the blog posts to SCONUL's information literacy model but hadn't developed any clear understanding of how to do that. I think it may be more possible than I expected, given the next point:

The sample is potentially huge, since it's more or less the whole known population of these blogs, correct to the current date! However, if I cut it down to only what's current, i.e. updated in the last month, fortnight or week, it could end up being quite manageable. Hence I would only be looking at a few tens of blogs, and a more in-depth content analysis, with clear categories and some synonyms maybe, could be feasible.

So I plan to brain-storm everything I am planning so far as a mind-map, assess previous studies' coding instruments for relevancy, and go through my current draft dissertation write-up, and maybe aim to do a pilot study of the currency of the blogs to see what size sample I get left with. If it's good I may try out the SCONUL model as a source of categories (somehow!).

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Don't say I never give you anything!

There, the list is done, and done. All that hard work is now yours for the viewing.

You can view the Big List at

The alphabetic tag list shows the blogs sorted into letter categories as well; I tagged them under initial letter (basically following the list of universities) as well as their city name.

The frequency listing is good for seeing which unis have the most blogs; however, this doesn't indicate how "fresh" they are, if indeed they have any posts at all!

Interesting facts so far:

  • Total UK academic library blogs listed on 135 (!)
  • Most prolific blogging university library: Warwick (19 blogs)
  • Strangest UK academic library blog: "Thing of the Day" at Portsmouth.

And a good night to all, that's quite enough for one day!

Ghost blogs

As I trudge through the overflowing sea of academic libary blogs, I've noticed that there are quite a few "ghost blogs" - either they never got off the ground, or they fizzled out a few feet in the air (to mix my Wild West and firework metaphors).

This is quite a pain for content analysis! I need a criterion for assessing whether the blog is "live" still, without chasing up every single author.

Probably I will borrow Walt Crawford's "any posts in the last month?" technique.

A lighter note...

Here's a link to some classic advice on dealing with the dissertation blues, which I first came across in a book entitled "Writing a Thesis"... I don't remember the author though.

And here's a poem which I clipped from "The Epigram", Bristol university's student paper:

The dissertation's fine and well;
My academic summit.
But social life has gone [to] hell (1)
(1) My footnotes watched it plummet

Burroughs, D. (2008). The Epigram. Epigram, 128. 28th Jan.

The poetic image and the rhyme scheme is lovely; but I inserted the "to" in order to make it grammatically and poetically complete... I hope he checked his dissertation more carefully than his epigram!

Both of these little snippets currently grace the wall above my desk; hence the connection to my dissertation, which is progressing even now... slowly!

I'm halfway through the bloglist and checking all the start dates of the blogs. Tedious work but quite useful. Not much point doing a comparative study if they are all on different timescales, or if I don't compensate for this. Also it's handy to show longer-running vs better established blogs. I think the list will be finished by Monday.

I got a reply from Walt Crawford today too, after asking a bit about how he put together his two books on Academic and Public sector library blogs. I think I can safely say I have contacted pretty much everyone involved in this area of research, with a very few exceptions (authors of similiar papers). That's one of the nice things about doing this particular subject; it's very web-oriented and hence very connected.

Friday, 13 June 2008


I'm working on a tagged and alphabetised link list of UK academic library blogs. It will eventually appear here:

I was thinking of keeping the links I'm adding currently private, and check the situation with regards to sharing my research, as this is actually part of the finished work, in the sense of a blog directory and descriptive metadata.

However, then I thought since I'm not really giving away much more than the list, I will put it up. I hope it's helpful to people and also that anyone who can update it will contact me with their new details!

If you have any good ideas or can point me to a resource that deals with this kind of issue, please feel free to let me know in the comments box. After all, this is a project about a social medium so I am keen to share as much as possible - however, the limit would be putting all my draft write-ups online (there are some already!) but I don't think that would go down too well with my university.

I'd also welcome any thoughts on how to analyse the blogs!

Monday, 9 June 2008


Great news. I now have a supervisor. So things can go ahead in earnest. First question to sort out is how detailed and how long a project it's going to be. Watch this space.

Friday, 6 June 2008

New job

I'm not sure if this pertains to the research project in a strict sense, but I received a job offer today and accepted; this means I'll be working over the whole summer and almost into the Autumn term.

Hence I have to put my hand-in date back a bit, most likely. That could actually be a good thing for the research; if I'm able to be more thorough, for example, or spend extra time on preparing a version for publication... I don't really know.

When I get a supervisor, it will hopefully become clearer. I think I need to keep on taking the initiative though, because the supervisor won't tell me what to do!

In any case, it will help me to relax a bit more, since I'll have a routine, and also it will give me a bit more cash than I would have from my research grant.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

The post of no posts...

Well, I'm still waiting for a supervisor, so I figure it's a good point to catch up on John Steinbeck novels!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Coding and coders

Having just received the coding scheme from the previous study on which this project is based, I'm quite happy that I can put something together once my supervisor finally materialises.

There are two poles I could aim at; either a large sample and a very statistical overview; or a small sample and a more qualitative investigation.

On the other hand, even with a small sample I could focus more on form (design features) of the blogs, or on their content (post topics and references).

Either way, feasibility is a major factor. One way to avoid the question almost entirely is to base my coding scheme mostly on what's gone before to aim for a good comparison; this would also mean a fairly design-oriented taxonomy which could make for less time-consuming coding.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

The Big List Part II

Well, I have hand-checked all the 210 emails that pertained to my dissertation, and noted which universities have no blog, and picked up quite a few stragglers.

It transpires that the blog count is now over 130, including all the blogs from various colleges which I doubt will get included. That is quite a few blogs!

Considering I imagine including about 200 blogs as the basic population for this study, that is a pretty high rate of blogging! Of course, a few Unis are responsible for a disproportionate number of blogs, so that skews the average quite a bit. It seems that take-up is rather patchy, with some very prominent institutions lagging behind, and a few unlikely contenders pulling all the weight.

Then again, blogging is not the be-all-and-end-all of librarianship!

Monday, 2 June 2008

Content Analysis!

Krippendorf (2004) is the content analysis bible, as far as I can see from the literature. At one point (page 39) he says:

"Much too often, researchers design content analysis studies ad hoc and
conduct them without any thought of validation; such research contributes
little to the literature on content analysis".

Well, I wonder if he means they don't contribute much to the methodology literature? I'm not too worried about doing that, I'm only doing a short Masters thesis. But I have noticed that a lot of the studies I'm using are rather sparse in terms of methodological considerations.

Hopefully I can design something pretty simple as I only have 2 months to get the thing done.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

The big list

I've spent a lot of time over the past 2 weeks just working through a list of Universities and Higher Education Colleges. While this is rather tedious, it's pretty useful. I now have a good feel for what is actually out there in terms of institutions, libraries and blogs. I have a rough overview.

Now I've started putting my data in order using a list of institutions from as a standard. Even more tedious, but it's turning up a few more blogs that I hadn't spotted and gives me the chance to correct a few lines of data. Plus, I have to do SOMETHING between now and Wednesday when I finally get a supervisor. If I have a nice neat dataset to show him/her I'll feel better.

I feel I'm a real librarian... I'm deriving rather too much satisfaction from a nice orderly table!