A user created library? The Carrick Exchange


What if academics from around the country shared their Teaching and Learning materials and methodologies in a central repository? What if they could create profiles for social networking around those materials and give peer review and create communities of practice?

The Carrick Exchange is being established to encourage this kind of sharing. It is to be administered by the Carrick Institute, a wholly government funded body established to “promote and advance learning and teaching in Australian higher education”. More information was given at the recent paper at Ausweb07 entitled Creativity in the Envisioning of a Collaborative Learning Space: first stages in the development of the Carrick Exchange.

I’m flying to Melbourne on 27th July to be part of a focus group for the Carrick Exchange, giving feedback about “engagement, resource sharing and peer review and commentary”. They are inviting 36 people from around Australia and are ensuring that each group includes some representation of:

  • Academics who seldom use technology but are interested in learning and teaching;
  • Members of cross-institutional teams (Carrick grant holders, consortiums etc);
  • Educational developers
  • Librarians
  • Staff developers
  • “Early adopters” or “front runners”; and
  • Repository representatives

I’m very glad to see the “L” word in the list. When I read through the preliminary information I thought “this is about storage, access and retrieval, this is about engagement of users, this is about creating community hubs – this looks like a library to me – albeit one with user created content”. Any librarian who knows her stuff would be able to establish and maintain the straightforward parts.

Where it stops being straightforward is in the areas of acquisition, reference, administering social profiles, authentication and taking it to the users’ own tools. New forms of libraries and librarianship will require librarians to know about these in the future. Here’s the challenges I see, and that I am very glad not to have to solve:

Acquisition The Carrick Exchange would be a repository created by its users for its users. Academics currently get funding and prestige based on their unique ideas and research. It’s like bread to the baker. To populate their repository, the Carrick exchange asks them to give these over and share their material. To encourage this, would the Exchange need to mimic the academic environment by offering prestige, peer review and/or grants?

I don’t know about you, but if I had to repackage a superbly engaging info literacy class into formal academic writing for peer review, then the work involved would discourage me from submitting it – and the soul would have probably been sucked out of it anyhow. Some academics are also incredibly protective of their copyright in material they create.

Reference Most libraries have trained professionals who answer questions about the collection and its systems. Our OPACs and federated search software may suck, but at least librarians know how to squeeze comprehensive, fine-tuned answers from them. They build up relationships with the users and know complementary resources outside the scope of their institution. The Carrick Exchange would be more effective with an officer to show people what is there and how to find it – via chat, email, VOIP, carrier pigeon – whatever.

Administering social profiles Librarians know how to administer records for non-people resources like books and online databases. How is it different when the records in your database correspond to objects that can change their own profile and create content, create other records and create complex links between these? Is it just a few steps on from managing user records where people are rating books and recalling them – or completely different?

Authentication This is recognised as a challenge in the AusWeb07 paper, when the solution suggested is a national authentication framework, allowing the user’s university environment and the Carrick Exchange to fit together seamlessly. I wonder how this fits in with the MAMS (Meta Access Management System) Testbed , which is an Australian Government initiative building a prototype federated Identity and Access Management (IAM) infrastructure for Australia’s Higher Education sector? (MPOW uses it in a joint project ( Online Librarian) with Macquarie library, where a user from Murdoch or Macquarie is directed to the correct institution on login)

Taking it to the users’ own tools. Do any of us need yet another place to go, or another social network? I wonder whether they have considered any of the methods that libraries are beginning to use for working with the users’ tools ?

Of course, my musings are probably not the type of thing we’ll be asked about in the focus group. I’m just intrigued by the librarianship puzzles it holds. I’m looking forward to finding out exactly what we’ll be discussing and meeting with the other group participants.

If you have any ideas or comments about the proposed Exchange, I’d love to hear them.

Why should I learn about that when I’m busy with other stuff?


Any librarian who is running a Learning 2.0 (23 things) program or an Emerging Technologies group should listen with respect to staff that tell you:

  • their service points are too busy for them to play
  • they don’t understand how they can use new technologies in their jobs now
  • they would rather just read about them
  • they just want to be told which ones are relevant and just learn about those ones.

These people are not dumb grumps, they are usually people with busy jobs honestly expressing legitimate concerns. They are telling you where the bridge needs to be built.

Backroom disaster (3) uploaded to Flickr on September 1, 2006 by Travelin’ Librarian

Our Emerging Technologies Group involves weekly “hands on sessions” alternated with project work the next week.The group is voluntary and the hands on workshops have covered things like:

  • how to get a gmail account and google docs and aps
  • RSS and using the google reader
  • creating a wiki with PBwiki
  • libraries and YouTube
  • creating an avatar in Second Life and doing more with it
  • podcasting using Audacity
  • doing more with Firefox

I sat down to write up the program for this month and realised that most of the topics I had up my sleeve were topics most staff had not heard of, could not be immediately applied to their jobs, and hence staff would be unlikely to turn up. I was thinking of topics like:

  • social bookmarking using del.icio.us/connotea/citeulike,
  • high use social networks like twitter, facebook, pownce, myspace
  • bundling RSS feeds into an OPML file
  • creating a google widget
  • BIGWIG sharecase
  • LITA’s top technology trends.

What to do? The whole point of an Emerging Technology group is to look at what is being used by early adopters and how this may impact later on our services. If everyone has heard of it, it’s too late to be trying to assess the impact.

CW suggested that maybe we could try using the time for a reading group. Maybe we could formalise it and run a 23 things program aimed at staff who haven’t participated yet? Perhaps we could make the sessions less frequent and give them a set of self paced tasks and readings as well as the hands on workshop?

If Emerging Technologies are so important, however, I should be able to address staff concerns. My next step is to try to articulate exactly why library staff should take up their time to learn about Emerging Technologies, even those with no application right now.

Next post – wish me luck…

Internal library staff blogs


We have a pilot project for an internal WordPress blog at our library. It went live as we began ripping up the inside of the building. Staff were told it was there and they were welcome to experiment, but that it was going to be launched officially with training later. I’ve been flicking email stuff that I want archived there, and a couple of people have made a couple of posts…but otherwise staff haven’t had the time to learn something new.

In the next few weeks, we start revamping it as a reference desk blog. The original version tried to cover the whole library and replace a few email lists. We had a separate RSS feed for each category…nice idea but a bit too confusing for most people I think.

Co-incidentally, I’ve had a couple of email conversations with other Australian librarians about implementing internal blogs, so I think ’tis the season for it.

One person was wondering about blogging policies. A good swag are found in the comments on Karen Schneider’s post, Blogging Policies and Procedures. You may also get some useful information from the general discussion of internal communications wikis/blogs happening on the Library 2.0 Ning network.

Another discussion involved getting staff buy in and support of senior management. It’s a hard one as the advantages are long term ones – mainly an easily searchable archive. Most training will focus on the posting side of it and it will be months before there are enough posts there for the searchablility to be a big advantage. I’d keep stressing the final outcomes during training.

We are treating the internal blog as an experiment and a training opportunity. We can get used to the interface and iron out any problems before we implement any other blogs aimed at our community.

If an internal blog is replacing some email communication, there comes a point where buy in becomes less voluntary. It’s just annoying to have two places to check for the same information, so someone is going to have to formulate guidelines about what goes on the blog and what is emailed. Clear guidelines, which are sensible and useable. I think it will take more than just that to make people change their habits. Especially when it is actually easier to send an email than post to a blog.

I’ve concluded that making sure staff understand RSS, and are using an aggregator, comes first with most L2.0 initiatives. With coaxing, people can handle one extra place to go, but having to check two work wikis, three work blogs and a work Flickr account for changes would be really annoying. This is an issue for a password or IP protected internal blog – web-based aggregators like the highly popular bloglines and google reader won’t be let near the feed to harvest it. I don’t have a real solution, but may try using RSS Popper which integrates with Outlook. If Outlook is left logged in on a PC within the allowed IP range, then you can read the RSSPopper feed externally via webmail.

I was pondering this afternoon whether all this Library 2.0 stuff is really useful. If it is, then why do we need to work out ways to sell it? Many of us seem to be getting the skills and playing with the toys outside of work, even when we have workplaces like mine that make time for new technologies. Then I remembered staying up late writing web pages waaaaay, waaaaay back in the early nineties so I could demo to library staff the advantages of the internet. And being a bit worried that I was raving about a techno-hobby-horse that would never be relevant to what we did in libraries.

Blah blah blah about Dewey?


Via gapingvoid, I found Christian Long’s Future of Learning Manifesto :

Here’s a summary..

1. “Playing Small Does Not Serve the World.”
2. What Would Socrates Do?
3. Nobody Cares if You Walked Up Hill Both Ways Barefoot in the Snow.
4. Got Passion? If Not, I’ll Tell You What To Care About.
5. My Memory Is Only As Big As My Heart. Otherwise, I’ll Stick with Google
6. Look it Up or Die.
7. Collaboration Ain’t About Holding Hands. It’s about Going Cool Places Fast.
8. This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Record.
9. It Ain’t About the Technology. It’s About Being Inside the Story.
10. Nobody Knows the Answer. Get Comfy with the Questions.

Point 5 deserves full reproduction. Are we engaging via story…or blah blah blah about Dewey?

5. My Memory Is Only As Big As My Heart. Otherwise, I’ll Stick with Google.

I could memorize your facts, but I got Google for that.

Yeah, completely outsourced my entire “traditional fact memorization” protocol to this upstart search engine. Yeah, like a library, ‘cept that there ain’t no dust and much, much bigger. Yeah, it’s not perfect, but I’m not going on Jeopardy, either. Yeah, there isn’t a librarian holding my hand, but then again I need answers now. Not after a lecture on the Dewey Decimal thinga-ma-bob.

Sure, I’ll do that memorize thing for you. Just one catch. Tell me a story.

Seriously. Put away the chalk. Get out from behind the podium. Look me in the eyes. Reach deep into my gut. Massage my heart. Get the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up. Get me to tell the flavor of clouds. Tell me to close my eyes and go somewhere bold.

I’ll remember anything you tell me. Swear it.