The Casual Librarian

My thoughts and opinions

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A Twitter Chat Review: Librarianship Across Borders

collaboration3-870x400Having travelled to an international conference this year, I decided to host June’s @uklibchat with a focus on how librarianship operates cross borders.

In the past 2 years, I have learned a lot from collaborating internationally, and it is something I wish to continue doing for the rest of my career. Going forward as a new professional my interests have begun to include looking at how the impact mentoring and leadership has within librarianship. I am excited by how these two management strategies can influence your professional profile, gaining you opportunities when that profile is added to a global platform.

My team members in @uklibchat are based all over the UK, from them, I have learned strategies and techniques to communicate across different cultures and contexts, to converse with people you have never met (we have since met in person) or only messaged/emailed requires a certain skill set. Communication is key, and once you learn specific ways to converse online I personally think many professional relationships can be established and flourish.

Today I have collated all the excellent topics raised and the positive feedback gained from opening up librarianship and having our profession reach across borders.

Our participants came from far and wide, Ireland, England, USA, Canada, Qatar, South Africa, and Europe. It was a delightful chat and one where this diverse melting pot came together and produced one of my favourite chats since I have joined @uklibchat, so a massive thank you to all who took part.

As I had attended an international conference in June I was interested to see how many others had taken part in an international event, conference or otherwise. It was interesting to see if it was something librarians did annually and if we don’t what are reasons?

The majority did attend a conference, a few took part in International Librarians Network and I was interested in the Erasmus programme one or two people did through their workplace within academic librarianship.

I am a firm believer in the more opportunities that come your way the better you become as a leader. Once you have done something you can be there to give support and encouragement for the next person.

The connections I have made in the last few years have lead to amazing opportunities and I am very interested in other people reasons for connecting internationally.

Here are some mentions:

  • Diverse perspectives
  • Wider vision
  • Access/Sharing support and resources
  • Positive and practical discussions
  • Similar challenges across librarianship, learning the solutions to overcome these challenges
  • Approaching situations in a new light, having a fresh perspective
  • Mentorship & Collaboration
  • Breaking down silos
  • Awareness of library trends
  • Friendship
  • Sharing how we deal with similar threats and challenges

In talking about connecting internationally virtually or face to face I am always conscious of people who find it difficult to make that first step. They can be a new info pro or a new member of an online LIS community. Here we discussed, simple ways to ease yourself into the international community.

1. Be a lurker on a Twitter chat, pick a hashtag a month and jump in if you only have a half hour that’s fine, most chats will create a Storify so you can access the discussion at a later date.

2. Be brave and apply for a bursary to an international conference (or any conference for that matter)

3. Ask your work colleagues what international connections they have, and see can they include you in groups, listserves etc.

4. Sign up for the International Librarians Network

5. Sign up for an international webinar (SLA have many and check out Web Junction)

I would like to focus on the first point, a Twitter chat, if you are thinking of becoming involved in Twitter, by all means, touch base with me. For new members and the established I have added a list of the twitter handles and hashtags mentioned in the chat, so we can all avail of a diverse pool of discussion.

Having spoken about how these international connections can enhance you personally, one question that I was delighted to see is how can this international collaboration benefit your library or library sector? The insight I gained here was wonderful. Here are a few thoughts or tweets!

  • Discover different solutions to universal themes
  • International collaboration helps with interlibrary loan and reference questions
  • International collaboration expands the pool of people and resources/collections, a super, extended library network.
  • New ideas, getting you away from your specific national funding context
  • Intercultural awareness. Understanding of /empathy with others
  • Very interesting to hear about USA perspectives on at @NASIG recently
  • Our library invites int’l librarians to see how we run our service & what we provide & we also learn from their practices
  • Perspective gained from Myanmar at @UKSG …we take our access to info for granted so often..
  • I’d be lost without my international contacts. I value them highly and am always willing to reciprocate with help

LIS sectors can differ, however, the core of librarianship does not change. Taking collaboration alone, can we establish and succeed across LIS sectors?  Many of our participants put forward a positive attitude, saying yes we can. In areas like CPD, I would agree that a group of people from different LIS sectors can produce a successful collaboration. In addition, I think the success of the project would be grounded in the diverse perceptions and experiences the group brought to the table.

Towards the end of the chat, we asked for overseas Twitter handles or blogs that you knew of but not located in your country. Here is the following list.




New Zealand

Thank you to everyone who participated, you can find the Storify for the chat on 




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2014 – uklibchat A team of librarians where we host a twitter chat every month. A different member hosts each month. Together we pick a topic, always library related. All members pitch in ideas for someone to write a featured article.

This collaboration is the one of the best things about uklibchat, it is great to meet new and diverse professionals and be able to connect with them through Twitter.

The twitter chats I have hosted so far include:

July 2014 –  3D Printing & Makerspaces with Dundee Libraries collaboration with Kevin McGinely @kevinmcginley16 

7th October 2014 – Research Data Management collaboration with Jez Cope from Imperial College London Library @jezcope

7 April 2015 – Collaborating outside libraries collaboration with Martin O’Connor & Elaine Bean @martinoconnor3

2015 – I joined SLA, as I am located in Waterford I find it difficult to become part of library committees as most are based in Dublin. Through a few twitter chats and a good twitter friend, I was alerted to the SLA digital committee. Here I was put in contact with the team and after a few emails I was brought on as part of the team. Within the committee, I update the events page of the SLA Europe website.

All of the above collaboration and networking is all done virtually, through Twitter, emails, Google Doc’s, & Go To Meeting.

2015 – I have recently collaborated with Rudai23, the Irish version for 23things. Here along with nine other librarians we each contribute with writing blog posts on each thing. Here I contributed on thing 5 – online social networks in particular Facebook and Twitter. Other posts include Collaboration Tools, and guiding our followers through reflective practice and a twitter chat, the Storify is here.

2015 –  As part of my internship I have begun to scope a digital library project, along with my mentor, an archivist. Here we are hoping to build a digital library of all the images that the heritage council as gathered over their 20 years. The main aim of the digital library is to preserve these images in a digital repository for future use. In order to up-skill for this project, I have taken a self-learning workshop in digital preservation through CESSDA.

2015 –   Finding a mentor, through a simple tweet during a twitter chat about careers. Here Tracy Z. Maleeff reached out to ask if we could start a mentor, mentee – ship. It is inspiring to know that someone out there has your back, and will always be there for you to give you the confidence we sometimes lack as new professionals.

2015 –  Helping create a twitter chat for school librarians, again a very random tweet asking me did I know of any chats, I knew a few in the US but none in Ireland and UK, and again I added in a few twitter peeps who would have more information and there you have it the makings of a twitter chat for school librarians! Watch this space.

2015 – Joined CILIP in August.

Please contact me if you would like to collaborate for a twitter chat, a poster presentation, webinar, podcast etc. you can contact me via twitter @shivguinn or my email is

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SILS Talk: Steve Sawyer from Syracuse University

dataToday’s talk stems from a topic that has been covered in my Digital Libraries module by Kalpana Shankar, here the topic surrounded the concept of “Big Data” and what is contains.Kalpana realised that it was something we could not handle, she illustrated a model which showed 2 subsets 1) highly rated data, what we do in the module, 2) Open data , access to all.

Then a few days later a program was on BBC’s Horizon series called “Age of Big Data”. This amazing episode brought together all the threads within our Masters and really opened my eyes to a larger and diverse set of skills.

This topic really got me thinking so I dipped my toe into the stream of information that surrounds Big Data and found that Ireland are embracing this new idea, with many reports analysing the benefits. Worldwide they have also been engaging in a conversation to discuss the topic.

The more I read about “Big Data”  the more I heard a small voice saying “Librarian, Librarian”, along the route there were references made to various professions, yet somehow Librarians were not included. I felt like it was back to a post at the start of term about how libraries and librarians are perceived, as Alan Barrett said why do we call users, users, they don’t use us we give them information based on the skills we have to give them the right information, who is using who?

Last week we had a class about Digital libraries and bridging this concept to Digital Repositories, part of this was the topic of Data Sharing which is the basis for this talk by Steve. The topic is centered around a study that Steve and co are doing by focusing on using documents and documenting practices to better understand distributed scientific work.

Steve starts by asking “SCIENCE” what is it? Here he furthers this answer to say it is “Economic, political, education, talent, knowledge work, and one way of looking at it which I like is “one window into studying high end work”.

Next Steves asks who uses this information, Societies use science, the emigration form asks about disease, interesting ways of looking at the openness of one profession yet linking it all back around to our discipline. Steve notes that a Scientific decision, is a politically wise one!

So a new concept gets thrown into the mix: Digital infrastructure! Steve notes” Everything we touch on is computation” and Digitally enabled. He makes an amazing point about the relativity to us here in Ireland where he states:  “Virtual organisation” differs because geographically Ireland is not really here yet, because we are small and can get to each other pretty quick.

An Example was given of how to “do good science” a project was analysed where an MRI scan is done of every person in the world, for that so you need a lot of MRI machines, to do this, if possible with 7 billion people in the world that is =  BIG DATA

Different terms are used for this eScience or Cyberinfrastructure as it appears in different cultures, America and Europe.This dialogue Steve illustrates need a lot of backup, he states: Scientists need money to get them to talk to each other, and science does not like to talk, here he proposes “lightweight organising” is a solution. Here you can check out the VOOS website here they are trying to make effective science.

Practise Perspective: documenting practices. How in the medical world, do they deal with documents, memo, reports. The practise of scientists. Contextualise the way these people operation, doctors nurses, surgeons how they operate on a day to day basis. So how they put together a set of tools, see what they do! These are really busy people!

The proposal here is to “See what they do model” Steve asks the tough question “How do you watch a virtual group”? All their documents are on a computer how they share or seeking information is all done virtually. Embedded into this is, Social scientists are rarely studied.

What Steve found is very interesting: Most of the the groups were 1 of 2 things: A Pre-existing relation=friendship, or what Steve calls a “pedigree relationships” like a lecture or supervisor that has been collaborated with on a projects and then given further skills on the back of the work done with them.

However these groups or shared working teams only had a Life span, collaborations max 3 yr! Many times the project lost steam and was forgotten or it may have been a Funded project and there was no money left. Where is all this DATA?Who owns it? Who can reuse it?

Seeking similar people out for these collaborations is noted in the Distribution of these people, here they were remarkably dispersed and rarely saw each other However they did use conferences, etc to find reasons to get together.

What do they do? Do they share literature that they found, NO! But they did write and collaborate on proposals. Even though they were working together each had it’s own individual data. So where is the data? If it was all individual with no data repositories, how would they all find someone’s data in case of emergency?

Steve gives another slogan: Least effort to best share, he shows how in these situations a Power/Status is based whereby a senior person will add parts to it and it will be disjointed, however he knows the student further down the line will clean it up!

Another area in which they noted a significant use was in the respondents Digital Infrastructure: they used Email, always! Steve gave a comparison to people’s Digital Infrastructure he says “Its like a Kitchen everyone has one yet everyones is just different, same items in the kitchen just different model! What is also mentioned is that for America it is a National Priority CI! A COLLABORATION COOKBOOK! Questions need to be asked: Who will own it and how to store it and get access to it? Steves solution is to build more integrated tools, connect them together! You could OUTSOURCE! However they have no concept of good data practise, where is your data! Who could find it if you are no longer there!

Steve opened up a whole can of worms within this study as it is so relevant to everything that is happening online at this moment, my computer has a lot of important data, my netbook also has similar yet a bit more on it from my undergrad and my USB key is a whole other story. There is my data, but where is everything?  Could my partner find my Capstone documents if I got sick to give to my other group members so they can work on it? Take this blog for example where is all these posts going to go once I lose interest? Do I copy and paste them into a word doc so I can keep them forever on another file, or print them out and keep them in a box?

All of the above needs to be addressed, Big Data is out there, and Kalpana is right we don’t know how to handle it, as they are too many threads, we can’t connect them quick enough as they grow too quickly, we can’t get the whole world to stop creating Data so we can “contain” it in order to get a “hold”on it.

So what do we do! Stay tuned I am intrigued 🙂