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Ahh, the age-old topic of work/life balance. We’re always being told to take more time for ourselves, that we’ll regret working so hard. And it’s easy to argue that modern technology is making it easier than ever to overload on work. Left an important document in the office? No worries, you’ve probably got a copy in Dropbox. And now you have a smartphone (you do have a smartphone, don’t you darling?) it’s no longer just checking work emails from home, but on the bus, the train, the plane, the holiday cottage, that little bar in Tivoli with the wonderful wifi connection.

Now that’s not to say that working outside work hours is always a bad thing. It can be very productive – some people work best in the evenings, or without the distractions of colleagues – and for people with non-work professional commitments (committees, campaigns, mentoring etc) it can be the only way to get everything done.

But what if you don’t actively choose to work? What if you’re actually trying to have an evening off, without thinking about anything work-related? The prevalence of ‘push’ notifications often means you can’t escape. Work related items will be cropping up in your RSS feeds, your Facebook notifications, your Twitterstream. Sure, you can shut all these down too. But what if you don’t want to? After all, they form part of your social life online too.

This is something I’ve been trying to deal with for a while. I separated out my ‘work’ and ‘leisure’ RSS feeds quite a while ago – and then did nothing useful with the work ones, leading to me being weeks behind on blogs and news. I had brief moments of regret that I’d given out my personal email address for professional-related activities – not because I didn’t trust people or want them in that space, but because it meant it was very hard for me to tune out. It meant that while emailing a friend late at night, I might spot an email with an action in, or a question, leaving me telling myself ‘It’s ok. You can answer it tomorrow. It’s ok. No-one really expects an answer tonight. Don’t worry about it.’ But, of course, I did worry. Even when things don’t need acting on immediately, just knowing that they’re there and that there’s another thing you’ll have to think about tomorrow can be stressful.

So, this week I’m trying to take control. I’ve taken my unused professional google account, and set myself up with an iGoogle page with my work related reader feeds and my work emails. I’m forwarding a number of professional emails from my personal account to my professional one, and skipping the inbox in my personal account. I know I haven’t got all my filters set up correctly, so it will be an odd hybrid for now, but I’m persevering, and it’s already better. This means I have a place I can use as my social media/internet hub at work, and when I choose to work at home.

But there’s still one big challenge. Yes, it’s twitter. I really don’t want to class twitter as being purely work-related. I don’t want to filter it out of my personal life. The people I follow on twitter don’t – shock horror! – post on purely work-related stuff. They also tweet funny, interesting things about life, the universe, and everything. They’re my friends, and I don’t want to shut them out. But they are still professional contacts. they do still tweet about professional things – even in the evenings! And that’s not even counting the US-based tweeps I follow, who are hard at work just as I’m trying to relax.

So what do I do? I can bookmark articles and favourite tweets to come back to later, when I’m in work-mode, and sacrifice being part of the immediate discussion. That works to a certain extent. But it doesn’t quite help with the sense of guilt, or professional shame. Yes, that’s right. When I see people tweeting about the great blog posts, articles, campaigns etc they’ve been doing in their spare time, and I’m sat there with a glass of wine, a bag of toffees, and Swallows and Amazons, well… I feel a bit ashamed. And yes, yes, I know – I work hard, deserve some time off, no-one can work all the time etc. I know the shame and guilt are ridiculous and unjustified. I just don’t quite know how to avoid them. Besides getting a more positive self-image, can anyone suggest how to manage this?

There’s a buzz in the info pro twittersphere this morning about the KPMG appearance on R4’s Today programme (library discussion starts about 8 mins in). Alan Downey from KPMG was talking about how the public can effectively run services that are currently run by the council, and was challenged specifically on the point of libraries. This was based on a KPMG report that came out today.

I’ll come on to discuss his claim that libraries could be run by volunteers, but my first warning that I was going to disagree with this man came when he said that ‘libraries are hugely important in the national psyche’. Oh, just in the psyche then? Not maybe actually important? It appears not. According to Alan Downey, we just think they are important. This is echoed in the written report, where they claim that ‘The level of community resistance to closing a library is usually disproportionate to the level of local usage’. Nothing overtly wrong with this sentence, perhaps, but oh! those nasty weasel words. ‘Disproportionate resistance’ is what stands out, and you can feel the condescension in every syllable.

The overwhelming impression I got from the interview was that Alan Downey’s idea of libraries is that they are buildings full of books. If library services can be run by the same people who are queueing up to sell books in charity shops, that strongly implies that he equates the two skill-sets. In the written report, libraries are condemned for having ‘over-skilled staff’. Well, if all library staff did was check books in and out, then perhaps they could be considered to be overskilled. But librarians do so much more than that – most ‘library services’ are based on the expert skills and knowledge of librarians. KPMG clearly do not have a clue about this.

KPMG clearly do not have a clue about a lot of things. I wanted to see where their assertions had come from, two in particular: that ‘in North America libraries are often run by volunteers not paid council staff’; and ‘much of the public space in a library is badly used storing infrequently used books’. Has there been a recent report about borrowing levels/circulation stats I’d missed? Well, quite possibly, but there’s no way of finding out through KPMG, because they don’t have any references. I’ll say that again: a report from a top advisory firm, aimed at reforming UK public services, contains not a single reference. Not one. Nary a hint of a reference. The press release about the report contains what could – with a generous stretch – be seen as a reference, in their ‘note to editors’, but is really just another unsubstantiated assertion. It looks like KPMG could have done with the help of some information professionals in compiling their report.

But they don’t know what information professionals do. They don’t know what libraries do. They don’t even really seem to know what libraries are. It looks like we need to go back to basics. Forget educating people about the value that information professionals add. Forget telling them how we can help them to find better, more authoritative sources of information. Let’s go right back to the very beginning: librarians facilitate information finding. Nope, too vague. Ok then: without librarians, there would be no books on your library shelves. If there were books on the shelves (‘study local needs for our acquisition policy? Nah, let’s just order the Amazon bestsellers list’), you wouldn’t be able to find the one you wanted. Oh yes, volunteers in charity shops do manage to organise the 50-200 books they have. Sometimes they even organise them by colour! That looks pretty, right? And we all have time to stand there and read every single spine in case the book we want might be there. No librarians? No catalogues. The reference desk? Will actually become just for lending pencils and directing people to the toilet. The computers? Well, you can try and use them – all depends on how IT-savvy your volunteer of the day is.

Yes, volunteers can be trained to do everything librarians do! Of course they can. This can be done in a number of ways – the most common is a post-graduate course at a CILIP-accredited library school. If you work in a library, and you’re trained to help users find information, then you’re a librarian. Maybe not a professional librarian, but a librarian nonetheless. But volunteers without specialist library training? I can think of no quicker way to reduce a library to a building full of books.

Yes, I know this is a deliberately provocative title, and I am not implying that Prof Murray-Rust needs teaching more than most, nor that he is particularly difficult to teach.

But, as his blog posts show (start here and read on), here is a prominent academic, who is well-known in the library world, who doesn’t understand why – or indeed how or when – the BL have DRM (digital rights management) on their electronic inter-library loans. (please note: I’m not going to discuss here whether they should have or not – merely that they do).

I understand why, although I couldn’t tell you when I learned. I’ve never worked ILL – is it some kind of librarianly osmosis? I’m sure you, as librarians and info profs, understand too (and if you don’t, go read Steph Taylor’s (@CriticalSteph) response on PMR’s blog).

So here is an issue which librarians understand, and which fundamentally affects the relationship of our users – arguably of our most sophisticated users – to the library. As PMR’s blog (and comments) show, it’s an issue which very negatively effects that relationship. It’s seen as a barrier to scholarship – PMR says ‘I believe that these represent a serious reduction in academic freedom‘.

If this is issue is so vital, why don’t they know why we are doing it? Prof Murray-Rust says ‘The BL’s responses are often masterly Sir Humphreydoms that say nothing‘, and he asks for professional advice from librarians about how to interpret the restrictions.

Why does he need this? I appreciate the need to have the legal disclaimers in place, but our primary role, as information professionals, is to get information to our users. We have obviously failed here. Why is there not a simple, accessible guide to DRM on ILL articles – in fact, to the role of copyright in ILLs as a whole?

The Cambridge University Library website inter-library loans page makes no mention of DRM – but that may be because it makes no mention of the fact that you can obtain journal articles electronically, through SED (secure electronic delivery). Surely Cambridge provides this service? Indeed, why else would PMR be questioning it? Yet no mention – that I could find. I’d be very happy to be proved wrong!

I’m not singling out Cambridge for condemnation here – it merely happens to be Prof Murray-Rust’s institution. Let’s look at some others, shall we? Manchester? No mention. Oxford and Sheffield? Some mention – they at least acknowledge the existence of SED. Edinburgh? Getting better – advice about the service, and a mention of why you can only print one copy. ‘Copyright restrictions’ is a pretty bare-bones explanation, but at least it’s a start.

So there is some information out there – but surely you’re not suggesting that this is providing an acceptable service to users? That to find information on a service you provide they have to find information on that service as provided by other libraries, and extrapolate from there?

(This is just a whirlwind tour of a few libraries that sprung to mind – if you know of a particularly good example of how libraries are communicating these restrictions, please let me know!)

So, on to the BL. After a bit of digging, I found the SED FAQ – it’s certainly not in a prominent or easily accessible place. And yes, it answers the technical questions. But nowhere is there a mention of the ‘why’. And without the ‘why’, it appears that we are restricting access to information for our own fun and amusement.

DRM on articles may or may not be deliberate barrier to scholarship, but not providing easy access to (in effect, withholding) all of the information users need to make the best choice about how to access those article, and how to make best use of them once they have obtained them, is. If we have to live with DRM, we have to learn how to make sure users get the most out of it – and that they understand why it is there. If we don’t, we’re failing in one of our fundamental trusts: to make the information our users need available to them – even if they don’t know they need it.

[I wrote this post several days ago, but didn’t get round to publishing it. Apologies if everyone is bored of the whole issue by now!]

With the recent (and much discussed!) news that the Library of Congress had acquired the Twitter archives, I have one question (well, several actually, but we’ll stick with this one for now): will this change the way you tweet?

Tweets are ephemera. Now, ephemera is considered an extremely valuable historical/social research tool, but one of the prerequisites of ephemera is that it is not intended for preservation. What happens now when it is?

Nothing. Probably. We’ll forget about it. The way we forget about cctv and those guys in the golf balls on the Yorkshire moors who read all our emails.

But – for the first few days, at least – will you try to add a little extra insight, a little extra pizzazz for the sake of future readers? Will you take this as your chance to influence how history remembers you? To be the guy who had that really funny and insightful tweet about the leaders debate or the Iceland volcano? To be quoted in a future thesis or book?

Do the Twitter archives hold potential future value for researchers? Will tweets have a chance at immortality? Of course. But the thing about future researchers – as everyone who has had to think about collection/acquisition policies will know – is that we have no idea what they will find valuable. So while you’re trying to wow posterity with your political acumen and elegant turn of phrase, it might be the person who tweets what they have for their lunch every day who ends up as the cornerstone of ‘Sandwiches as an economic force: an exploration of working lunch habits in the early 21st century’.

Being remembered by history is still a lottery, but Twitter and the LoC may just have given you a few free tickets…

Well, I promised you a post about what I hate about ebooks. I wish I hadn’t. But it’s important to balance the flow of love with some of the more negative issues that surround ebooks. There’s no way I can possibly cover all of them (mainly because I probably haven’t thought of most of them!), so here are a few things that affect me.

Lending ebooks. Well, you can’t. I suppose you technically could, by physically handing over your ebook device, but that assumes a number of things:

  • that you don’t mind being without that device for however long it takes for them to read the book
  • that you trust that person with your possibly-very-expensive device (as opposed to, say, an 8 quid paperback)
  • that the person you are lending it to is comfortable with reading ebooks a) in general b) on your device in particular

(That last is quite an important point – none of the three people I most regularly lend books to read ebooks. This, for me, takes a lot of the joy out of book ownership. Visitors to my house rarely go home without having at least one book eagerly pressed upon them; some leave with bagfuls.)

If you don’t want to hand your device over, can you lend an ebook? Certainly not (legally) an in-copyright work – you’ll have to enjoy it alone.

Ahh, copyright, the bane of the ebook world! Let me admit (cue career death and professional ostracism) that I have broken UK copyright law, by reading certain ebooks. Now, I’m certainly not admitting to being part of the growing piracy network for ebooks, but I have fallen foul of the copyright trap that is Project Gutenberg. Yes, having sung their praises, I’m now pointing out a flaw. They do give the copyright status of each work on the item page, usually ‘Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook.’. Now there’s the rub – and the thing that caught me out. Check the laws of your country! I was so delighted to find the lovely selection of PG Wodehouse books available on Gutenberg, that I never spared a thought for the fact that old Plum didn’t shuffle off until 1975. His works won’t be in the public domain in the UK until a whopping 2046. [yes, I did have to go on a big copyright-fact-checking mission to make sure that was right. and I’m still not entirely sure]

I’m sure this isn’t the only case where I’ve inadvertently infringed copyright through ebooks that are public domain in the US, but not the UK. I don’t usually remember to check. And if I, as an information professional who Really Should know better, don’t check, who does? Now, as far as I’m aware, publishers and authors don’t seem to be making an issue about this. I haven’t heard of anyone being threatened with court for illegal ownership of a text document, but just because you’re probably not going to get caught doesn’t mean it’s legal. [I’m sticking with the ‘legal’ argument here – my opinions on the state of current UK copyright law are for another discussion entirely.] I think we can all agree that it’s much harder to accidentally infringe copyright with pbooks – although I’m sure I’ve bought at least one book in the past with ‘not for UK distribution’ stamped on it…

What else don’t I like about ebooks? Well, they can hurt your eyes. I don’t have a dedicated ebook reader that produces the ink-on-paper effect, so I can’t speak for those, but I have spent many hours getting my settings right in the various programs I use.

Ah yes, ‘various programs’. Now there’s a thing! I have 6 dedicated ebook readers installed on my home pc, plus microsoft word (which I use where possible – it has a far better customisable reading view than any of the dedicated readers). Of course, you know what’s coming. You have to use the ‘correct’ reader for each ebook format. Adobe Digital Editions giving you a headache? (and trust me, they will) Tough. You want to change the font colour, you buy the book again. In a different format.

What else? well, there are the occasional OCR issues (I read an ebook once where ‘God’ was rendered as ‘Cod’ the whole way through. Nothing has cheered me up quite that much for years). You don’t always get illustrations, or maps. Fixed-length lines can be annoying. But these are minor quibbles, and pbooks have many of the same display issues – we’ve all read the cheap editions with tiny blurred text. And shoddy editing/proof-reading is no respecter of format.

I know I’ve skated over – or ignored entirely – what others might consider to me the most important issues, but I did say that this was going to be about me and my relationship with ebooks, and I must admit that I’ve written this primarily as a reader, not an information professional. This could be because, in my current role, I don’t really interact with ebooks professionally. Perhaps when I do, my feelings will change. But as a reader? yeah, I think I’m in love 😀

This post from Library Thing’s Thingology blog has had me thinking this week about my relationship with ebooks.

Two disclaimers:

  1. I love ebooks
  2. I hate ebooks

Yeah, I know – how totally uncontroversial. Doesn’t everyone have mixed feeling about ebooks? Does anyone love them unconditionally? Does anyone hate them with a rare and rabid passion? I suppose they must be out there…

So what do I love about ebooks? Well, first off, they’re books. They may not have all those fancy bits-of-paper-with-ink-on, but they contain words that tell stories. That’s good enough for me.

Secondly, they’re immediate. I’m a highly impatient person – I hate waiting for anything – and I’m completely hooked on the idea that if I want to read something *now*, I can. Ok, not everything is available as an ebook, but a suprising number are. Enought to keep me happy, anyway 😉 True, it might cost me a lot to read it, but that’s the price of indulgence. And…

… thirdly: so may ebooks are free! It’s almost impossible to say just how much I love Project Gutenberg. It’s a source of constant delight to me. So many books! For free! And I can do whatever I want with them! (within certain limits). What’s really important for me is that Gutenberg ebooks are platform independent. I generally choose to read them in Word if I’m on my pc, and my phone has some good text readers for me to Gutenberg on the go. In fact, Gutenberg are making their texts available in loads of formats, that can be read on almost any device.

But it’s not just Gutenberg – there are loads of good, free ebooks sites. I’m not going to go into details about that here (oh, you insist? ok ;p ), but I will give a shout-out to the Internet Archive texts collection. Sometimes, I really do like the experience of seeing the book in its original layout, rather than robbed of some of their character – as they can be – when they are reduced to just text, and formatted/fonted to your preference.

One of the things I love most about free ebooks is the serendipity involved. I don’t buy new books very often, and when I do, it’s usually by an author I know I’ll like. Most of my reading experimentation is done in the library or the charity shop. But with free ebooks, you get the freedom to try something just because you like the title. I subscribe to the Gutenberg new books rss, and I’ll go through and tag the ones I like the look of. Then when I’m bored – instant reading list!

I know you do get the same kind of low-risk serendipity in libraries, but not to the same extent – certainly not with most public libraries. They’ll have a collection development policy, which will necessarily limit what you will find. The ebooks sites don’t have that – the Internet Archive explicitly states ‘This collection is open to the community for the contribution of any type of text’. This naturally creates a greater diversity (within the bounds of public domain texts, of course) – nothing is excluded, nothing is weeded. Nothing is on loan with a 4-month reserve list!

Before I leave free ebooks, I must mention Distributed Proofreaders, who provide most of the books for Project Gutenberg. Anyone can sign up to start proofreading texts, which have been scanned and OCRd. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? Well, it is! I don’t know why, but I really enjoy it. You can choose which books you work on – some really dedicated DPers work on things in miniscule columns full of Latin and Greek and obscure scientific formulae. I work mainly on children’s books, with about 100 words to the page 😉

It’s incredibly satisfying to feel that you’ve been a part of preserving this knowledge, and enabling its dissemination. I also like spotting errors (*ahem* librarian *ahem*), and puzzling out what words might be based on the context. Oddly enough, reading a few random pages of a book can be absolutely fascinating. I don’t do as much with DP as I should, but when I do make the time I love it, and vow to do more.

This has turned into a bit of a monster post, so I’ll save the hate (grr!) for part 2 (which means I have to remember to write it). A few more quick ‘things I love’:

  • Portability! Often mentioned, but the fact that I have about 100 hours of reading material on my phone – including War and Peace and 4 vols of Maupassant short stories – never fails to astound and delight me. And it’s always with me. I never used to leave the house without a paperback in my bag; now I’ll only take one for train journeys.
  • The fact that I can read ebooks while eating (assuming, as I do, that I generally eat in front of my computer) without having to juggle food and book, or concoct elaborate book-proppy-open devices. It’s on the screen – it doesn’t move, or close, or get obscured by gravy. And one finger will turn a page.
  • Left your book at home, and dying to spend lunchtime catching up with it? No problem! Just download another copy. This applies to most paid ebooks, as well as free ones – many (possibly all?) retailers allow multiple downloads of the same book. You may have to enter passwords or register a device ID, but you can get at it. And for those of us with story-addictions, that’s a great big plus.

Ok, that’s the love over. Ready for some hate? Part 2 will turn up some time after I get around to writing it 😉

I’ve really been enjoying the food in libraries stories going around on twitter today. It takes me back to my graduate trainee days (because, umm, that’s the only time I’ve ever actually worked in a library), when John Rylands were rethinking their food and drink policy – at the time, bottled water only. It interested me at the time, and when I went on a presentation skills course, I chose to do my presentation on food and drink in the library.

Leaving aside the searing terror, and the issue of my presentation skills (I fidgeted too much, and wrote in all caps, which is apparently Bad Practice), the thing I remember most from the presentation is the anecdote I used to illustrate my conclusion. I’d been working in the library for all of about 3 months at this point, and I was happily walking back from the kitchen to our office, when I saw a student with a cup of coffee. I was on my way to say something to him, when I looked down at the mug of tea in my hand, and realised what a screaming hypocrite that would make me.

True, I was employed by the library. True, I was going to drink the tea in my office. But there was still a computer there, still plenty of damage I could have caused with a careless slip of the wrist. It’s not like ‘advanced beverage handling 101’ was part of my induction. This really made me rethink my initial response (no! no food! bad students!) into something more measured, more conciliatory (well, ok, then, that’s fine. Just be careful. and don’t take the piss! and do take your rubbish!).

And that’s the line that John Rylands took (I can claim absolutely no role whatsoever in that decision!). Their food and drink policy became ‘it’s your library, leave no trace‘, and I still think that it is a pretty sensible policy. It took a while for me to get used to seeing food and drink being blithely consumed under the watchful eye of librarians, but I got used to it, and have even drunk coffee in the stacks myself.

I’m not saying it’s a perfect solution – I’m sure current JRUL staff could tell you about a number of drawbacks! – but I think it’s a good way to educate the user about the consequences of their behaviour, rather than just forbidding them. And the library cafe serves good coffee, so overall? Benefits all round 🙂

ps my ambition is now to take a kettle to a library. and a toaster. and an electric coffee grinder. maybe a juicer? gadget lady forever!

I’ve been mainly doing my day-in-the-life updates through twitter, but decided you deserved a proper blog post today 🙂 Apologies if you know all this already!

I got into work slightly earlier than usual (9:45 instead of 10! I’m not a morning person, and prefer to work later if possible), as a colleague was borrowing my phone to record an interview with a Copac user, and needed to be shown how to use it as a voice recorder. We’re interviewing users of Copac, the Archives Hub and Zetoc at the moment, to gather evidence about how our services are being used by researchers and educators. I always enjoy talking to our users – it’s great to hear how much they value the services, and how they are using them. It’s also interesting to hear about people’s research areas! Among the topics so far we’ve had mosquito mating; the history of Scottish shawls; 12th century views on magic; and African border disputes (my sincere apologies to anyone whose research area I’ve just totally misrepresented! This is all filtered through my limited understanding.)

I spoke to an Archives Hub user at 10:30, which meant I missed out on a Mimas institution – coffee morning. This is a legacy from when Mimas staff were spread over a number of locations, and didn’t have much contact with each other. We’re rather more collegial now (down to only 2 locations!), but it’s still nice to meet up on Weds morning, for coffee and a chat.

After the interview, I posted a blog post I’d written earlier. I’d asked an SLA E colleague to read it, to make sure that I wasn’t dragging the good name of SLA Europe into disrepute, and posted it once she’d given me the thumbs-up (yes, I can be quite paranoid!). Then to transcribing the interview, which – as always – took far longer than I expected!

Just before lunch, time to arrange a visit to Chetham’s – always a treat! they’re a Copac contributor, and are interested in contributing their archive records to the Archives Hub. I’m going down to talk them through exporting their records from CALM and uploading them to the Hub EAD editor. In their supreme loveliness they’ve offered to buy me lunch if I go in the morning 😀

Then to trying to work out why the file from the first interview this morning would play on my computer and not Lisa’s. I’m fairly sure it was a codec problem, but I didn’t really have time to identify exactly what the issue was, so I just downloaded a freeware converter, and converted it to .avi. Thankfully, that worked.

Lunch, and drafting this post to cover my morning. After lunch I set up a trial access to the RLUK database for a potential new customer, which involved everyone in the office trying to remember where we’d put the documentation, and which login to use (we don’t do this very often!). That task successfully conquered, I emailed a contributor whose descriptions are being added to Copac very shortly, to ask for some information and a photo so that I can make them a Copac library page.

Then a news blog post and a tweet about the new Copac iGoogle widget that one of our talented programmers has produced.

Then back into the murky world of IT-ish things, as the xslt I needed arrived from Adlib. I soon realised that I didn’t actually know what to do with the xslt – I knew I needed to apply it to the xml file somehow, but how? After being very scared by the results of a Google search (‘simply build this in basic!’ ‘applying xslt transformations in asp.net!’), of one my colleagues pointed out that my xml reader should have the necessary software built in. It did, and I managed to find the right menu options all by myself! For me, this counts as a victory over technology 🙂

Before heading home, I decided to finish off the blog post I started yesterday, to be a follow-up to this post on the Copac Developments blog. This post deals with the format of the Copac records, and how we de-duplicate, so I’ve sent it off to be checked by people in the know, to make sure I’ve got my facts straight.

Other things I’ve done today? the usual email checking (including a wry smile of amusement at the discussion on the lis-web2 list about whether discussions should take place on the list); catching up on a few lib/info related RSS feeds; and admiring the new artwork around our offices.

This is the result of a Mimas photography competition, and I’m really pleased that my favourite picture (by Copac’s very own Ashley) is right outside our office.

Photo of a photo...

Now, although this is the fourth round of the highly interesting Library Day in the Life project, it’s my first time at it, so forgive me if I’m boring/off-topic/repetitive/very bad at posting daily. I’m probably going to be doing most of my updating on twitter, partly because I’m lazy (and full blog posts can seem like just too much effort, what with thier need for proper sentences and grammer and all yer-what-nots), and partly because I like having the little snapshots of what people are doing at a particular point in the day.

I thought I’d start this week with some background on what I actually do, so that the day-to-day (or hour-to-hour) updates will have some context, and hopefully make some sense! Following on with the theme of laziness, I’ve decided to lift this directly from the annotated CV I’m putting together as part of my CILIP chartership portfolio:

Content Development Officer, Library and Archival Services
Mimas, the University of Manchester Apr 09 – present
This is an expansion of my Copac Challenge Fund Support Officer post to include a role as Project Officer for the Archives Hub.

The aim of my role is to identify and facilitate sustainable content development opportunities for Copac and the Archives Hub. This involves scoping the UK library, archive and museum scene for potential contributors, and then liaising with these potential contributors to determine the possibility of them becoming contributors. For those who do become contributors, I manage the logistics and data processing. This involves corresponding with musuems, libraries and archives by phone or email, and has included some visits to institutions.

The data processing side of the role for Copac has seen me using a linux command-based system to study files of MARC data, ensuring that no errors have been caused by our automated procedures, and that the data we receive from the libraries is consistent and valid MARC. This has led to me becoming very familiar with MARC rules and fields.

For the Archives Hub, I am working with archival software providers to improve their EAD (Encoded Archival Description) exports. This has involved learning EAD and examining exports in XML reader software. I will be providing the two major archival software manufacturers (CALM and Adlib) with specifications for improving their export.

My role also involves promotional and outreach activity. I have worked the Mimas stand at the 2008 RLUK conference and the 2009 Online conference, and I presented a poster on the Copac Challenge Fund at the 2009 CILIP Umbrella conference. I also contribute to the Copac and Archives Hub blogs, and have co-authored articles about Copac with a colleague.

I also provide general support for Copac and the Archives Hub, which involves answering user queries two days a week, and supporting colleagues in producing documentation and giving user training. I have also assisted Jane Stevenson in teaching EAD to Liverpool University MA Archive students.

It’s not exactly deathless prose, but it’s a fairly formal rendition of what I do with my time. For a more informal and in-depth look, watch this space 🙂

Something that’s been on my mind recently is the issue of swearing on twitter. This hasn’t been prompted by anything in particular, and it’s purely relating to my own tweets. I’m not criticising anyone else for swearing (or not!), just trying to work out where I stand on it.

Now, I swear. A lot. And I don’t have a problem with other people swearing. I’m not going to go into why I think swearing has a place in the language – others have done that far more eloquently than I could hope to – but whether it has a place on my twitter stream.

The thing is, I’ve always lived by the rule that you don’t swear in professional situations, or in front of clients. Spilled a cup of tea over a huge stack of newspapers? Oh sugar. Getting torrents of abuse from punters? Smile, grit your teeth, and call them sir. I’d never swear while working a reference desk, or at an interview. I wouldn’t swear on a conference stand, or in a work-related blog post (in general, yeah? Appreciate that this post might be a little hard to write otherwise! So, if you haven’t already guessed, there will be swearing in this post. Look away now if you’re of a nervous disposition.)

But what about twitter? Is it a professional milieu? Sure, I have a lot of professional contacts on twitter, but we don’t just talk about work all the time. Sure, my twitter contacts may one day be interviewing me for a job, or reviewing my papers, but will it really matter then that I once called someone a wanker on twitter? Will they remember? Will they care?

It really does come down to where I feel my twitter circle fits in the professional/personal scale. Many of my tweets are personal, or not directly professionally relevant; but I know that when I do have something of professional interest to say, then I have an audience who will be interested and engaged. So how do I deal with this mix?

I’ve come to the conclusion that, for me, twitter is like after-conference drinks in the pub. For an even more concrete example, twitter is like drinks in the Head of Steam after Mash oop North (possibly because I met a lot of tweeps for the first time there). It’s a friendly, collegial atmosphere, where you know that you can appreciate each other’s professional interests, but are also more relaxed, talking about telly and books and music and making jokes. It’s an atmosphere where a bit of judicious swearing is perfectly in order.

And so, I have decided, for my twitter. Don’t worry that my stream is going to become NSFW, with random expletives jammed into every post. This is, after all, judicious swearing – and I do have to remember that other people’s twitter milieus might not be the same as mine. They may feel that it is a professional only area, and that swearing is inappropriate. But what sort of swearing? I doubt anyone would be offended by the occasional ‘sod it’ or ‘bloody’. ‘Bugger’ is probably ok, and I think I could get away with ‘shit’. ‘Bollocks’ is probably moving closer to the wire. And as for the f and c words? Well, as you can see, I’ve wimped out of using them here, in a post about swearing, where I’ve warned people there will be swearing. So probably not, no. (why am I so worried about it? It’s not like no-one’s ever said ‘fuck’ on the internet. oh, there we go!)

I realise that this might seem like a trivial post – or an excuse to chuck swearwords around on my blog – but it has actually made me think quite carefully about what being a professional entails. I’d always had this vague sense that being professional meant being on your best behaviour at all times – until you’d locked the door and taken your shoes off, and then you could do what the hell you liked. Problem is, a lot of our professional interaction now is taking place behind that locked door, and I can tell you for a fact I’m not wearing any shoes right now.

I can also tell you that the professionals I respect most are those who let their human side show. Those people who are efficient, informative, and amusing. Who can get the job done and still have time for a natter. Who are confident enough in themselves to find the balance between formality and informality. People who are ‘always on’ I find intimidating. Little touches of the personal help people to relate to you, feel more comfortable with you, and (I believe) make for better working relationships.

So, that interviewer who remembers me swearing on twitter. Will it hinder my chances? Could it even help? Or would it simply be of no importance? We are adults, communicating with each other by the tools commonly used in society, and swearing is one of those tools. So why am I agonising about it? I think it’s about time I bloody well shut up 😉

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