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Hi everyone, Kat from the law library here again. On Wednesday, I attended a lunchtime talk at the Radcliffe Science Library entitled ‘Join the conversation with Twitter’. It featured three speakers talking about the use of twitter by libraries, and I found it really interesting, so much so that I thought I’d share some of the things I took away. You can see a synopsis of the talk on the RSL’s Facebook page.

First, Michael O’Hagan (@OHaganMichael) talked about the research he did for his library school dissertation, which was a study of academic libraries using twitter. He looked at lots of different academic libraries’ twitter analytics, and tried to get a picture of what they used twitter for, how much interaction there was with other people, who those people were, what the interaction was about, and how popular twitter seemed to be as a method of communication. Personally, if you’d asked me to guess the answers to these questions, I might have pessimistically expected a lot of interaction and followers to be other librarians and libraries, and for there not to be much interaction with genuine readers. So I was pleasantly surprised when he explained that, actually, there seemed to be quite a bit of interaction with readers asking questions and giving feedback about library services, which is a promising sign that Twitter is a good method of communication. He also had quite a bit of advice about how to use Twitter more effectively in libraries, based on the most successful institutions he’d looked at. This included:

  • Tweet frequently! Also, given that it’s very easy to miss things on Twitter if you follow lots of people, if there’s something you really want people to notice, try tweeting different phrasings of it several times over the course of a day.
  • Follow other feeds that are part of your institution: Oxford University, the Bodleian, your department or faculty, academics who have professional twitter accounts. Then retweet things you think are interesting or relevant. This starts a conversation with other twitter accounts which may have larger or different followings, which can help to increase your exposure.
  • Keep track of what people are saying about you – if people reply or retweet anything you post then Twitter will let you know anyway, but it’s worth looking for indirect references (for example, if someone just writes ‘law bod’ in a tweet but doesn’t use @thelawbod). You can also search by location to restrict to mentions in Oxford.
  • If readers have specific questions about the library, respond as quickly as possible. Twitter comes with the expectation of immediate response, which can be a problem if you’re not checking it regularly.
  • However, don’t be creepy! If someone refers to your library in a conversation but isn’t asking a question, then maybe don’t jump in – it is going on in a public space, but having an institutional account reply to a twitter conversation between a few readers might be a bit much!
  • Use pictures and links – tweets with these are more likely to be retweeted (unsurprisingly) which increases the number of people reading them.

Next, Isabel Holowaty (@iholowaty) gave a presentation with tips and advice about using Twitter from her use of it for the History Faculty Library (@HFLOxford). She also showcased using an iPad to present via a projector, which was very cool! She recommended using a programme/app which allows you to see information about several twitter accounts without constantly signing in and out (which you have to do on the twitter website), and showed us HootSuite, the one she uses. This allows you to link all sorts of different social media accounts: different Twitters, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, even WordPress for blogs, and produces columns showing feeds for each of them. You can pick what appears in each column, for example your sent tweets, mentions, retweets or direct messages, and can search your different accounts, save searches, and tweet from any account. It definitely seemed like an alternative to just using twitter’s website (which is what I currently do), because it saves you from having to sign in and out to change account. I would be a bit worried about accidentally retweeting or following someone from the Law Bod’s account rather than my own, though! HootSuite also allows you to schedule tweets for a later date, which I thought sounded useful as well. At the Law Bod, we’ve just started a Twitter rota (more below), where different staff take a morning or an afternoon and tweet a few things they think are interesting. I’ve found since signing up that quite often I have all these ideas throughout the week and then on Monday afternoons: nothing! It would be great to be able to schedule some that aren’t time-dependent when I think of them to go out on Monday afternoon, and then just check them over on the day. Isabel also advised searching for your library to find indirect references, including all possible misspellings of Bodleian! She also pointed out that if your library has a blog, and new blog posts get tweeted about, it’s worth coming up with a punchy title, otherwise your tweets look a bit boring.

HootSuite for @thelawbod

HootSuite for @thelawbod

Lastly, Penny Schenk (@galoot) talked about my library, the Law Bod, as a case study of an academic library using Twitter. She explained that we’ve recently started a Twitter rota, and that this has massively increased our activity on Twitter, and also the variety of different things we tweet about. We try to follow mostly organisations rather than individuals, to ensure things stay professional. The rota means that we hopefully tweet every working day, which has definitely helped increase our following. She also suggested using the ‘follow friday’ meme (where Twitter users suggest a person they follow who they think writes interesting things) to build conversations with other users.

I found the talk really interesting, and definitely think the Law Bod should take everyone’s suggestions on board. I’ll by trying out HootSuite, and retweeting more things from the Law Faculty, the Bodleian, and Oxford on my Monday afternoon slots! Judging by the History Faculty Library’s almost 2,500 followers, frequent, interesting, varied tweets and retweets with links and pictures seem to be the way forward.

Thanks for reading and, if you like, follow @thelawbod or me, @kastrel (although be prepared for anything from cross stitch to formula one, as I tweet on all sorts of things).

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Kat Steiner here again, one of the graduate trainees at the Bodleian Law Library. On Wednesday, Frankie Marsden and I headed down to London for the BIALL, CLSIG, SLA Europe Open Day, a day of presentations and tours based at the CILIP headquarters near Russell Square. We thought we’d give you a few of our thoughts on the day, especially on what we individually will take away from it.

A few acronym explanations before we start. BIALL is the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians, CILIP is the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, CLSIG is a special interest group within CILIP standing for Commercial, Legal and Scientific Information Group, and SLA Europe is the European and UK division of the Special Libraries Association. Still with me? Just the names alone were a lot to take in!

Copyright Wellcome Library

The Wellcome Library

Over the day, we heard 9 speakers, whose places of work included London law firms, the Law library of City University, the Wellcome Library, the British Medical Association, the Inner TempleLinex (a company offering current awareness tools and aggregation for subscribers), and the British Library. It was fascinating to hear the stories of how they had reached their current jobs (often by a combination of luck, enthusiasm and perseverance), and their varied positions. It particularly stood out to me how many people mentioned TFPL, a recruitment agency, as being invaluable in helping them find jobs. I hadn’t heard of them, but I will definitely be looking into them now!

There was also the opportunity to go on a tour of either the Wiener Library, a collection for the study of the holocaust & genocide, the library of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, or the library of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. As Law Bod trainees, Frankie and I both chose the IALS, and enjoyed a detailed tour and talk by David Gee, the Deputy Librarian. As the library takes three graduate trainees every year, he had a lot of insight and suggestions for what to do afterwards if you are thinking of going into law librarianship.

Several speakers were also from law firm libraries, or law librarians in other institutions, and it was very interesting to hear about their jobs in detail. I hadn’t personally thought much about specialising, or moving away from academic librarianship (I’m hoping to stay at the Bodleian while I do my library school masters), but there definitely seemed to be a lot to recommend ‘special libraries’. The chance to do real legal research was very attractive to me as an academic challenge (at the Law Bod, students are expected to do their own research, although there are lots of classes to help them learn how to do it). However, I’m not sure I could cope with the increased pressure, longer hours and difficult deadlines that come along with it. The rather better pay might sweeten the pill, though.

Copyright Inner Temple Library

The Inner Temple Library

The talk that really stood out for me was from Simon Barron, a Project Analyst at the British Library. He focused on the concept of  ‘digital librarians’, and the way that technology is transforming the information profession and will continue to do so. In the days of ‘big data‘ (a current buzzword that I’m still not hugely clear on – in my understanding, it can mean data sets so large that they allow statistical programs to crunch through them and draw remarkably accurate conclusions without any attempt at explaining how the causation between the conclusions and the data works), librarians who can code, use technology, and be willing to learn new technological skills will be more and more in demand. He described his current project with the British Library and the Qatar Foundation to create a digital National Library of Qatar. This is an ambitious project, involving huge numbers of documents to be digitised, including 14th- and 15th-century Arabic manuscripts. Simon’s job seemed to involve a lot of technological problem-solving, for example ‘how do we get this data out of this piece of software and into this other piece of software without losing it, or having to do it by hand’. He explained that his coding knowledge was entirely self-taught through Codecademy and that, although he didn’t consider it his crowning achievement, his colleagues were still very impressed when he made a spreadsheet where the boxes change colour depending on the data you enter.

Simon’s talk made a big impression on me, and really confirmed my feeling that the MSc in Information Science is for me. I have some basic experience with coding good practice (a 10-week internship at a software company, writing code in Perl), and the main thing I took away is that it’s really not that hard or scary, it just requires logic, perseverance (read: stubbornness even when it doesn’t work), and the willingness to have a go even if you’re not sure what you’re doing. I believe anyone who really wants to can learn to use technology, but they may not see the point. Simon emphasised the use of technology to automate what would be fairly simple human processes. This is a great point – if you can automate a simple action on a computer (for example, removing formatting from a text file, or averaging each row in a spreadsheet), you not only save time, you make the process scaleable to much larger sets of data, which would take humans far too long to deal with, and you reduce the possibility of human error, as long as your code actually works!

Anyway, you can see that this made quite an impression. Another thing I will take away is how many things are worth joining to get more involved in the information profession. You can join CILIP for £38 a year if you’re a student or graduate trainee, definitely worth doing! You can join SLA (of which SLA Europe is a chapter) for $40 a year if you’re a student (even part-time, but I’m not sure about graduate trainees). You can join BIALL for £17 a year if you are a full-time student. You might want to consider registering with TFPL. SLA Europe offers an Early Career Conference Award, which three of the speakers had won, allowing them to go to amazing conferences in San Diego, Chicago and Philadelphia. BIALL also offers an award for the best library school dissertation on a legal topic. And, finally, Information Architect is a job title it might be worth looking out for.

That’s pretty much all I have to say for this post (I’ve waffled for more than long enough). Frankie will be talking about the aspects of the day that she really liked, and I’m sure they will be very different! I just want to thank everyone who helped organise the conference – it gave me loads to think about, allowed me to meet plenty of other graduate trainees, and generally have a great time. For anyone who wants a more general idea of the day – the slides from the presentations that everyone gave can be found on the CLSIG website.

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