librarian stereotypes

The Great Library Stereotypometer!

Okay here it is... After EXTENSIVE RESEARCH (I asked people on twitter what they reckoned) I proudly present (and then immediately duck behind the nearest sofa) the Great Library Stereotypometer - a new, up-to-date, piercingly accurate and entirely NON-SERIOUS look at library stereotypes! library stereotyes

As the caption says, click it to view full-size. Feel free to use it anywhere. Don't take it seriously. (Seriously.)

More to add? Why not create your own! :)

- thewikiman

VIDEO: Library Day in the Life

Library Day in the Life is a bi-annual initiative to document what library professionals really do these days, insitgated by Bobbi Newman. I've taken part in previous rounds with normal blog posts but frankly nobody ever really reads them - this time I wanted to do something a bit more interesting and a bit more visual. So I've created a video of one day in my library life - the effort-to-end-product ratio of this is all out of sync as it took fricking ages! But anyway, here it is, I hope people like it.

In case anyone is interested, I used a Logitech webcam, my iPhone, my wife's fairly ancient digitial camera, and BB Flashback Express screen-recording software to record it - and Windows Movie Maker to edit it all together. Music is by Mint Royale.

A couple of the best bits just would not work in Movie Maker. They play fine on their own, but they froze when I stuck them into the film. No idea why, it's not done that to me before - so I'm afraid a screen-grab about LIFE-SHARE is gone, and a bit about #buyalib is gone too. I had waaaaaaay too much footage, too... Note to self: no need to film the entire commute. :)

- thewikiman

The famous comedian, the library, and the thoroughly modern echo chamber success story!

It's not all bad news and problems in the world of the echo chamber, sometimes things work out really well. One such success story had escaped my notice until today (apologies if you already know about this and it's old hat). Frank Skinner is a comedian and broadcaster. He wrote an article for the Times entitled Sorry, the demise of the library is well overdue. I am militantly anti-the-Murdoch-empire, and the article is behind the Times paywall, so I don't want to encourage anyone to give any funds to the evil cabal (who knows, they may well find their way into Fox News's coffers) - so why not read this response to the article, in the Guardian, instead? Anyhow, the response in the library community was typified by Phil Bradley's piece - sniffy of Skinner's worth as a cultural commentator and dismissive of his views. I can understand that. My personal reaction was different, however - I really like Frank Skinner,and I listen to his Absolute Radio show (in podcast form) every week. Moreover, I know from having read both his books that he is a: extremely intelligent (I think people assume his qualifications are honourary ones bestowed on a famous person - but no, he did an MA in English Literature, he used to be a teacher, and his is very articulate) and b: a really, really good writer.

Like Seth Godin's before him, Frank's piece was worrying for two reasons - firstly the factual inaccuracies (he said books probably carry diseases - this is a column to order in the Times, remember..) and secondly the fact that his views were probably representative of many (libraries have no role in the modern world). It's not enough just to say he's wrong (which, regardless of my personal appreciation for him, I can see that he was) - we have to address the fact that he speaks for a lot of people.

I tried to do something about it, as an advocate of the #echolib approach to responding to attacks on libraries (ie don't just talk to other librarians about how awful it is). My efforts were, admittedly, pretty lame, but I tried. I emailed Frank via the radio show and explained that his views of libraries were one-dimensional and out-of-touch with reality. I provided an analogy with people's views of him - because he did laddish comedy in the 90s and wrote Three Lions, many people think he is a lad with only blokey, basic humour to offer. He can do that, but he's got a lot more to him than many give him credit for. That, I said, is like libraries - we're known for books, and we DO do books, but we also do a lot more than the causal observer would realise. With that parallel in mind, I said in the email, perhaps you could visit a library this week, see what they're really like, and talk about it on air?

Anyhow, no doubt the show's producers weeded out the email long before it ever reached Frank Skinner, as it's hardly primte-time Saturday morning entertainment fare to read out on air. Elsewhere in the library world, someone did something a lot better - someone wrote Frank a letter. There's some details here - a Westminster resident called Don Mackenzie wrote to Frank, explained why he thought Frank's views on libraries were misinformed, and then invited him to Church Street Library to see for himself. And Frank accepted! This isn't even a librarian taking action, it's a library-user - library champions really are worth their weight in gold.

a pic of Frank Skinner in a library

The best bit of this story is what happens next. Frank Skinner wrote another piece about libraries for the Times, this time entitled: Why I’m on a new page with local libraries – it was my ideas that were dog-eared, not the places themselves. #WIN! In the piece, Skinner describes his fears about accepting the invitation because he was worried he'd be proved wrong, and then his eagerness to actually BE proved wrong when he reached the library. He goes on to basically be converted to the cause. Here's a quote:

The library had loads of computers. The general feel of the place was a cross between a clean, efficient secondary school and a cybercafé. No one was whispering. With the staff’s encouragement, I actually joined the library, and proceeded to choose a book. I wanted Tony Blair’s memoirs but that had already been stolen so I opted to reread Nineteen Eighty-Four. At last, George Orwell fans can reclaim the Big Brother franchise.

The smiling lady on the front desk pointed towards a machine on the wall. I put my newly issued card in a slot, scanned the book and got a slip showing the return date, which doubled as a perfect bookmark. I’m already seeing that date as a target. I work better with a deadline. Incidentally, I can return the book to any library in the borough and, you guessed it, renew it online.

I'd urge you to read the whole thing - and you can, because he's put the whole thing on his website. Yes that's right, it's not exclusively behind the Times paywall. The original piece was, mind you, but the retraction was not. How cool is that? Not only has this achieved the key echo chamber escape (that eluded us with Godin, Newsnight, KPMG et al) of the same audience reading the good stuff about libraries which originally read the bad stuff, but a BIGGER audience has read the good stuff because Skinner thought it important enough to put in the News section of his own web-page. Not only that, but I think a converted library skeptic is actually better news for the profession, overall, than if he'd never written the original article!

I really can't tell you how happy this whole thing has made me. :) Skinner has justified my faith in him, libraries have enjoyed a positive media narrative because of the whole incident, and many of our strategies for escaping the echo chamber have been shown to work wonderfully well!

w000000000t! That's all I can say. This also relates to the point that I keep harping on about whenever I'm given a platform - all we need to do is ensure that people can make an informed decision as to whether or not to use their libary. Not everyone needs libraries, that's fine. As long as people know what we do and can make up their own mind. Frank Skinner's opinion was based on a lack of understanding of modern libraries - when he obtained that understanding, his opinion changed. We need to do this, again and again, with everyone.

The Echo Chamber problem IS one we can all solve!

- thewikiman

Echo Chamber Presentation: Director's Cut (Slides Edition)

Laura and I did a version of our Echo Chamber presentation at an event in Newcastle a couple of weeks back. We had a shorter time than usual to do it in, so we took the opportunity to make a slide-deck rather than using the Prezi; it isn't as long, and as far as I'm concerned the more potential this presentation has for dissemination, the better. If we make it available in more ways, that's good - particularly in as embedable a medium as a Slideshare presentation; feel free to take this and put it wherever you like (it's on an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs licence). Laura has also uploaded this to her Slideshare account, and it's featured on Slideshare's Homepage! Woot.

We had a great time in Newcastle - thanks to Biddy Casseldon and her team for putting us on! Unlike at the other events we've presented at, the vast majority of the audience weren't familiar with who we were or what we were going to talk about, via Twitter or blogs, beforehand. We were escaping from our own echo chamber to a certain extent, and starting with a clean slate, having to win over a fresh audience as to the importance of what we were talking about. It was really gratifying to see people nodding emphatically - you really got the sense that people were having exactly the same "oh we really DO do that stuff, and it really DOES matter, and we really CAN try and fix it!" type revelations we had when we first started discussing the echolib thing 12 months ago. We were preaching to the unconverted, and I think we converted a lot of them. :)


Libraries & Stealth Advocising!

I'm afraid this post has a bit of a 'here's what I did, how cool is that' feel to it, but it's sort of unavoidable if I'm to share what I learned...

Stealth Advocising: creating material for library advocacy, but packaging it in something of intrinsic awesomeness so that non-librarians will be interested in it anyway - thereby extending its reach and escaping the echo chamber. Stealth advocising is the Trojan Horse of library advocacy.

The Background

Recently I've been thinking about the 'libraries and the echo chamber' problem a lot. (What a surprise!) Coincidentally, I also read that Lorcan Dempsey thinks the 'found flickr' style of slide-deck (which is what I normally do - I know it as 'zen-style slide-decks': full-slide images, one point per slide, the image being a visual metaphor of some kind for that point) is dead or dying. Then I saw NoteandPoint, a site devoted entirely to showcasing lovely presentations. The slide decks on there were sooo far ahead of what I normally do, it really made me think.

The Concept

All of this came together with me thinking a: I need to experiment with a different style of slides, to keep ahead of, or at least up with, the game, b: I've been meaning to contextualise my 'essential advice for new professionals blog post' into a slide deck for ages because it would be easier to digest and disseminate that way and c: wouldn't it be cool to make a deck so attractive it gets onto NoteandPoint because of its aesthetics, and then surreptitiously rights public misconceptions about librarianship at the same time! It's stealth advo-cising! Subliminal advocising, even! Because people will be viewing the presentation as a sort of cool object of PowerPoint beauty, without realising they're actually absorbing library advocacy! W00t!

This idea could apply to a lot of things. Make something which is cool enough of itself for people to want to share it, and it just happens to be about libraries too. What would result, if it worked, would be huge reach beyond your normal sphere, and people beyond the echo chamber learning about libraries. A good example of this in the past was when LibraryMan and David Lee King's Library 101 video got onto BoingBoing - that took more resources to create than most of us could realistically aspire to, but ANYONE can make a slide-deck.

The execution

Last week I created my slides, entitled If you want to work in libraries, here are ten things you need to know. I prioritised form just as much as function - this meant compromise, such as not saying as much as I wanted to in some slides, and dividing one slide up into 2 different ones because I only had 9 main slides. I wanted 10 because 'here's 10 things you need to know' is snappier than 9 - titles are really important. I made it short and easily digestible. I found a nice texture from Flickr (CC, of course), cropped it and re-coloured it to work as the background. And I used icons from the newly discovered icon-finder site (thanks Phil!)  to be graphics in roughly the same place each slide. The end result was a deck built for echo escapism - it is pretty, and although there are compromises on content they are necessary to help it achieve wider dissemination - less stuff, but seen by many more people, = #win. It's concise, honest, makes important points I'm always making, and will hopefully put off as many people as it entices into librarianship. No point in people entering this profession labouring under misapprehensions.

The deck

Here it is:

What happened next

All I can say is, this went waaay better than I expected! I wrote a blog post yesterday asking people, how do I get this slide-deck beyond the echo chamber? Almost exactly 24hrs later, thanks to a mixture of the suggestions people gave me on Twitter and on the blog, and just trying stuff at random, here's some of what has happened:

Screen-grab of three Prospects Tweets

Pic of a tweet

Pic of a tweet

Pic of Slideshare

Pic of an email

Pic of Slideshare

Pic of slideshare

The combined reach of those Twitter feeds alone is over 6000 followers, NONE of whom follow me and so were inaccessible to me otherwise. And all I did was just ASK them to tweet it - that's all there was to it! Why have I never done this before? The Prospects Twitter person in particular was really helpful and engaging, and got my feedback on other stuff they were doing online at Prospects, and tweeted links to my Essential Careers Advice post and my Prezi on libraries and technology.

The Slideshare featuring thing is amazing, because every time anyone goes to the homepage they can see an attractive presentation, check it out, and are fed pro-library propaganda through a straw while they do so... As they said in the email screen-grabbed above, they receive thousands of uploads each day - the only way they even know my presentation existed in order to put it as a Feature on the homepage was because it got into the Hot on Twitter section as one of the most tweeted about Slideshare decks in the world for that morning so,thank you to everyone who tweeted and re-tweeted the links! The pictures above show just the #echolib busting stuff - it was also picked up on by loads of library people too and I'm really grateful.

Another thing worth noting is that, at the moment, if I type 'I want to work in libraries' into Google, the first four entries I get are this presentation. (Same with typing in 'if you want to work in libraries'.) I know Google personalises results but even so, that's pretty good - I'd rather people got my opinions on the truth of working in libraries than some out-of-date stuff that perpetuates the misconceptions, stereotypes and so on.

The numbers

At the time of writing, just 24rs since being uploaded to Slideshare, the presentation has been viewed 2611 times, linked to via 345 times, embedded in 18 people's sites and blogs, tweeted 69 times, downloaded 13 times, shared on Facebook 48 times, liked on Facebook 66 times,  favourited 10 times on SlideShare and even received 7 votes for Slideshare's World's Best Presentation Contest 2010!


To put that in context, the next most viewed presentation I've ever submitted to Slideshare has less than 1000 views, and that's EVER - let alone in 24hrs. So stealth advocising undoubtedly increased my reach exponentially, and hopefully it enlightened many of those new viewers as to what libraries are all about.

Your turn?

So, how else can we apply the stealth-advocising principle and help libraries escape the echo chamber? Suggestions in a comment please, or better still, make it happen and post a link to it here! :)

- thewikiman