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Archive for November, 2011

I decided to allow my inner geek have a trip out, and so we went to the talk at Magdalen College Library ‘Classifying the world: John Wilkins and the invention of a universal language’, by Tabitha Tuckett, who is one of the librarians there.

 John Wilkins was a clergyman and scientist from the seventeenth century who decided to try and make up his own language, to be understood by all, and his method of doing so was essentially to classify the world. As Wikipedia says, it was “brilliant but hopeless”.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I mostly associate language invention with Tolkien, and my immediate mental image of an invented universal language is something like Esperanto. Wilkins’s invention of a universal language was different to both.He did not base his language on other European languages, rather, he believed that the way to achieve a language to be characterised by ease and usefulness was to base it on a logical system of classification. He would use categories and subcategories to create building blocks for conveying meaning, and attach phonemes to each building block to create words.

In the seventeenth century there was a movement to try and bring about a universal language, to create a language that could be understood by all. This movement was in part brought about by the decline in Latin as a lingua franca, and also by the increase in travel to parts of the world where the people spoke languages nothing like the European ones.

Wilkins developed a system of hierarchical classification, which he intended to be both spoken and written. The gist I got was that Wilkins’s aim was to arrange all human knowledge into categories, like Linnaeus would later do (with more success) with plants. He tried to arrange all of human knowledge into categories. Wilkins started with a broad concept, represented by one letter, and then added suffix after suffix to narrow it down. He had forty broad categories (genuses), ranging from God to disease to stones. Each genus could then be divided into sub categories, to aid the defining of them. Stones, for example, could then be divided into vulgar stones, middle prized, or precious; dissolvable and non-dissolvable. And vulgar stones could furthermore be sub categorised into greater or lesser magnitude, and so on.

His work then becomes of interest to linguists. I found the relationship between Wilkins’s language to his script and pronunciation quite hard to grasp. He developed a script, all squiggles, represented meaning directly. This means that his words could be written without ever being spoken, and his language was more of a classification scheme than a language that Tolkien might have made up.

I found it extremely interesting, especially how his language was limited by the inability to classify the extent of human knowledge. It was also limited by issues with tense and voice, and was a very brusque way of communicating. Nevertheless, it was fascinating to see how even attempting to add a classification system to the world could create a comprehendible language.

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Hi everyone, I’ve written some thoughts about Twitter. Would be interested to hear if/how/why you use it at your libraries, and any answers to the thorny question below.

 

 “A Twitter feed for the library! What’s the point in that?”

 

What is a library without a Twitter feed these days?  Given the number of us who lovingly tend our accounts on a daily basis, letting our readers know with admirable foresight any alterations to opening hours, or perhaps informing the world that e-journal access is not currently working (No, wait! It’s back. Oh no, it’s gone again), you could be forgiven for thinking that the answer is ‘not very much’.  Alongside the irresistible rise of 23 Things and the ubiquity of the library blog, the little blue bird has become a sure sign of the tech savvy, forward thinking Library (2.0). Without it, you’re really nothing but a collection of books.  And who wants that?

I’ve been cultivating the Taylor Slavonic’s feed since I started. We’ve had our ups (currently being followed by the Telegraph’s Moscow correspondent) and our downs (also being followed, for reasons I don’t fully understand, by Elite Chauffeurs – “Hackneys and Executive cars for all occassions”), but on the whole we’ve seen the follower count go up to 195 and even had a few re-tweets. So far, so good. But aside from the obvious satisfaction of having more followers than the Taylorian (a derisory 165), I’m still curious as to why exactly it is that I spend about an hour a day finding stuff to tweet about, tweeting it, and paying attention to the tweets of others. Or, as one of our readers put it a touch more bluntly, while glancing at my lovingly crafted poster, “A twitter feed for the library! What’s the point in that?

Bill Drew of Tompkins Cortland Community College Library, NY, provides a succinct overview of why a library might be interested in Twitter, including being able to keep readers up to date with library developments, providing a reference service such as local news, and enquiring after readers’ opinions quickly and easily. This said, the majority of Drew’s reasons, good though they are, relate more to the institutional side of libraries rather than to reader services. For example, networking, keeping up with other libraries, following notable information professionals, none of which answer my reader’s question.

One way to respond would be to explain what we tweet about and why. As you can see from the poster, the aim was to expand the scope a little further than simply info about our Christmas holiday dates (24th Dec – 3rd Jan, in case you’re interested, but you’re not, are you?):

Twitter Poster

In short, if an event, news story, broadcast, resource or person relates either academically or culturally to any language in our library (and we have quite a few), then it gets tweeted. Over the past few weeks @TABSOxford has tweeted about: online resources for Russian history; digitisation projects of Byzantine manuscripts; details of free film screenings in Oxford; a whole host of lectures and seminars; times and dates of concerts in Oxford; and a fair few re-tweets for articles and websites of potential interest.

And why? Well, I like to think that in its own modest way, the feed is a place to:

I also hope that all this works cumulatively to make the library seem:

  •  Engaged and connected with the faculty and its subjects
  •  A hub for relevant interesting information (broader than simply being that building with all the books in it)
  •  Up to date and shiny – unlike the décor.

But what you put up on Twitter is only half the story. Or, rather, if no one is reading your story, then there is very little point in writing it. Because Twitter is the high demand shelf of the internet: small pieces of information that are needed at a particular time, briefly, but by many people. If your tweets are not being read and used, it doesn’t matter how valuable or interesting they may be, they don’t belong there. Twitter is not some sort of digital archive where information has value independent of use, imbued with a kind of potential irrespective of whether or not it’s consulted frequently (or at all). It’s all about temporary, widespread dissemination and, crucially, reception. In short, the best Twitter feeds link good information with the people who want it.

So I suppose the only way of answering my reader’s question would be to say, because our followers use it. At least I hope they do. Luckily, I know a good way to ask them. I’ll get back to you.

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Hey everyone,

For anyone who’s interested or missed it , here’s my blog about Library Camp 2011, which I attended about a month ago.

I’m also working my way through 23 Things for Professional Development, which so far is really interesting. If anyone else wants to do it with me, so that we can prod each other and get a move on, that would be great.

Another great site I’m using is LISNPN, where lots of trainees and professionals get top know each other.

Maybe, as we head towards the end of term, some of us could do a post on here about what we’ve learnt so far this year. It would be great to hear about people’s experiences so far!

[And a plug for #uklibchat 🙂 Every other Thursday on Twitter. Tonight it’s about games and gamification in libraries, and is really interesting to take part in and follow.]

 

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Hi there

I’m Matt as you all know by now.

I am the graduate trainee at the Bodleian Library, and I am getting well into the thick of things in week 4 of term. I graduated last summer from the University of Birmingham with a BA, in Ancient History. Just before, and throughout the duration of my degree I have worked for the NHS in areas including: Patient Administration Systems (PAS), Clinical Coding, and most recently in the Outpatients department.

I enjoy sports in general, including water sports but I am particularly enthusiastic about racket sports, mainly Badminton and Squash. I also enjoyed managing and playing in a six-aside football team at university.

I have undertaken a number of roles since I began working at the Bodleian, including shelving and unloading deliveries; however the majority of my time is spent assisting and interacting with the public on both the reserve and main enquiry desks.

To sum up my time so far, I’m loving Oxford, living the dream and my hope is to benefit from the experience I will gain from the traineeship and the chances I will have to get to know new people.

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Hello! I’m Rebecca, and I’m the futureArch graduate trainee, based within BEAM (Bodleian Electronic Archives and Manuscripts).

I graduated last year from the University of Leicester, where I studied History. Since then I have worked at a GP surgery and volunteered at Shropshire Archives, where I was involved in a project on some Parish collections. This meant I got to work with a lot of old documents, including the relics of a key member of the early Methodist movement.

My role in futureArch is quite different, as I am dealing with born-digital material: things like websites, emails, Word documents, audio files, and digital photos. This means working with sites on the live web, as well as capturing files off CDs and floppy disks. I am also doing some more traditional archive work, assisting in the Special Collections Reading Room once a week and cataloguing paper collections using EAD. I’m looking forward to learning more about archives over the next year, especially the challenges which digital material presents to archivists.

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